Inaccuracies, politicised framing and salad on BBC R4 ‘Woman’s Hour’

h/t CL

Readers may recall that last month we took note of a BBC report in which the programme presenter described an Israeli Arab as ‘Palestinian’ even though the person in question had not identified himself as such.  

“According to a study carried out last year by the Israel Democracy Institute just 14% of the Arab citizens of Israel define their primary identity as Palestinian. However, even in the contemporary era of race and gender self-identification, one BBC World Service radio presenter appears to have granted himself the prerogative of deciding how Israel’s Arab citizens should be defined.”

That issue arose again in the July 12th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Woman’s Hour’ which included a segment (from 25:48 here) described in the synopsis thus:

“Writer and cook Yasmin Khan’s travels took her from the olive groves of the West Bank and the fruit markets of Jerusalem to the first micro-brewery in Bethlehem [sic]. While breaking bread with the Palestinian people she learnt about the realities of their everyday lives. Yasmin joins Jenni to Cook the Perfect…Fattoush.”

Despite Fattoush being a dish found across the Middle East, in response to a question in the introduction from presenter Jenni Murray, Khan told listeners that “Fattoush is just a classic Palestinian salad”.

Although the BBC Academy’s style guide instructs that “in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity”, listeners heard Yasmin Khan make repeated references to ‘Palestine’.  

Khan: “…I thought it was so important to try and use food as a way of sharing stories from Palestine…”

Khan:”…in Palestine the olive tree and, you know, olive oil really represents both Palestinian culture, their connection to the land and every Palestinian has an olive tree kind of in their garden…”

Every Palestinian”? Really?

Listeners also heard Khan’s politically motivated definition of other people’s identities.

Murray: “So where, apart from Jerusalem where you learned how to make this, did your travels around Palestinian kitchens take you?”

Khan: “Well I went all over really. I visited Palestinian communities in the north of Israel in Acre and Haifa […] then I went over to the Galilee…”

Having stated that she “cooked with refugees in Bethlehem” without listeners being told why there are refugees in a place that has been under Palestinian Authority control for well over two decades, Khan went on:

Khan: “And then I even, you know, found time to have a drink with workers at the Taybeh beer factory…”

The Taybeh brewery is, unsurprisingly, located in Taybeh rather than “in Bethlehem” as inaccurately claimed in the programme’s synopsis.

Murray asked: “Alcoholic beer?”

Khan: “Absolutely. I mean 30% of Palestinians are Christian so you know there’s a wonderful wine industry. They make beers, beautiful arak.”

According to the CIA World Factbook just 1 – 2.5% of the population of the ‘West Bank’ are Christians and in the Gaza Strip Christians make up less than 1% of the population. The “wonderful wine industry” in the Palestinian Authority controlled areas is primarily composed of one winery run by the same family that owns the Taybeh brewery and a winery in the Cremisan monastery.

In response to Murray’s question “how do you define yourself what is actually authentically Palestinian?” listeners heard a reply from Khan which steers readers towards the view that “millennia” old Palestinian cuisine predates other “influences”:

Khan: “Well you know Palestinian food has evolved through several millennia of different influences, whether they’re Islamic, Jewish, Roman, Persian, Ottoman.”

Later on they heard the following context-free statement:

Khan: “There is no doubt that Palestinians are going through incredible hardship especially in places like Gaza where, when we talk about food, I mean, you know, 80% of them are dependent on food aid to survive, 90% of the water is undrinkable.”

Near the beginning Murray noted that her guest had “worked as a human rights campaigner for a very long time”. Radio 4 listeners were not however told that Khan previously worked for the anti-Israel NGO ‘War on Want’ and is on record as promoting the BDS campaign against Israel and campaigning for an arms embargo on Israel.

Aired on the day that Khan’s cookery book was published, this item obviously includes political messaging that will come as no surprise to those familiar with Yasmin Khan’s campaigning record. Listeners to ‘Woman’s Hour’ were not however informed that Khan is “associated with a particular viewpoint” as BBC editorial guidelines require and hence were unable to put the politically motivated claims and messaging they heard in an item portrayed as being about food into their appropriate context. 

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After three months, BBC News website notices Gaza arson attacks

As has been documented here over the past few months, the BBC has failed to produce any serious reporting on the topic of the arson attacks using kites and balloons which Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been staging daily since April 11th.

BBC News yawns at ‘Great Return March’ arson incidents

BBC News makes a story disappear by changing photo captions

BBC News finally mentions Gaza arson attacks – in just sixteen words

Comparing BBC coverage of fires in England and Israel

However, no crystal ball was necessary in order to predict that after three months of largely ignoring that story, the BBC’s interest in it would suddenly perk up when Israel took action.

On July 10th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel closes main Gaza goods crossing in response to arson attacks” on its Middle East page. The reason for Israel’s action was presented to readers in the report’s fifth paragraph as follows:

“Israel has shut the main cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip in retaliation for arson attacks by Palestinians and attempts to infiltrate its territory.

Only “humanitarian equipment”, including food and medicine, will now be allowed through Kerem Shalom.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to use a “heavy hand” against the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which dominates Gaza.

A Hamas spokesman called the Israeli move “a new crime against humanity”.

Palestinians have been launching kites and balloons carrying containers of burning fuel and explosive devices over the Gaza-Israel border since April.”

Readers next saw an image captioned “Gazans have been flying incendiary balloons and kites over the border with Israel” and were told that: [emphasis added]

“The devices have sparked 750 fires in southern Israel, burning more than 2,600 hectares (6,400 acres) of forest and farmland and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage, Israeli officials say.”

Curiously, three weeks earlier on June 20th, the BBC had reported that:

“Israeli officials say the crude devices have sparked more than 450 fires in recent weeks, burning 2,800 hectares of land and causing $2m (£1.5m) of damage.”

With the arson attacks having continued relentlessly since that June 20th report was published, it is of course impossible that three weeks later, a smaller area of land had been burned and the monetary value of the damage reduced from $2 million to “hundreds of thousands”. Local press reports cited a figure of some 7,000 acres destroyed.

Readers found the BBC’s now standard anodyne portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt which continues to conceal from audiences the fact that the casualty figures quoted actually come from Hamas – which organised, facilitated and financed the agitprop – and that over 80% of those killed have been shown to have links to various terror factions.

“The arson attacks began during mass demonstrations along the border, at which thousands of Palestinians have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel and also demanded an end to the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Israel and Egypt say the blockade is a necessary security measure against militants.

Gaza health officials say more than 130 Palestinians have been killed and 15,000 others injured by Israeli forces during the protests.

Human rights groups have accused Israeli troops of using excessive force. Israel has said they have only opened fire in self-defence or on people trying to infiltrate its territory under the cover of the protests.”

Readers were told for the second time that in response to Israel’s announcement concerning the Kerem Shalom crossing:

“Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, called on the international community to intervene immediately to prevent what it called a “new crime against humanity”.”

The BBC’s report did not inform readers of the reaction from the Iranian funded Palestinian Islamic Jihad and of course no mention was made of the fact that the terror organisation now claiming a “crime against humanity” directed three separate attacks (all but ignored by the BBC) on that same crossing just two months ago.

The BBC then found it appropriate to amplify the messaging of a foreign funded political NGO.

“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.”

However, while the BBC News website apparently did consider statements from a terror organisation (twice) and a political NGO to be crucial to audience understanding of this story, the point of view of the residents of the area that has been under daily attack for three months was obviously once again deemed superfluous.

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BBC WS audiences get distorted account of Kerem Shalom closure

BBC Radio 4’s peace process tango for one – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the first half of an edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Analysis‘ titled ‘The Middle East Conundrum’ provided listeners with a long list of Israeli prime ministers who failed to make peace – while deliberately ignoring the role played by the Palestinian leaders with whom such agreements were supposed to be made.

Having erased post-Oslo Palestinian terrorism and the planning of the second Intifada from audience view entirely and with no reference whatsoever to foreign funding of Hamas terror, presenter Edward Stourton likewise presented three rounds of conflict sparked by Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians as something that simply ‘erupted’.

Stourton: “There have been repeated eruptions of conflict between Israel and Gaza and those who try to mediate in the region have seen trust between the two sides steadily eroded by violence.”

He then introduced his next contributor – Gabrielle Rifkind – as someone who “has been involved in conflict resolution in the Middle East for two decades” but without clarifying (as required by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality) the “particular viewpoint” of the organisation – formerly part of the Oxford Research Group – with which she is associated and without mentioning that her “Palestinian colleagues” included the PLO’s Husam Zomlot

Rifkind: “Well I think post-Oslo there was a moment of hope and even some of my Palestinian colleagues would say things like they threw olive branches to the Israelis. There was a belief that things could change and the two sides could live together. But since then there’ve been so many wars…ahm…three rounds of war in Gaza, we’ve had the Lebanon war.”

The Hizballah-initiated second Lebanon war of course had nothing to do with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and while conjuring up “olive branches”, Rifkind erased the post-Oslo terrorism in which hundreds of Israelis were murdered just as Stourton had previously done.

Stourton also managed to erase the 2008 peace offer made to the Palestinians by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert from his account before going on:

Stourton: “There was a flutter of hope that the peace process could be revived in the aftermath of Barak Obama’s arrival in the White House. In 2009, with an eye to Israel’s ever important American relationship, Benjamin Netanyahu – newly elected as prime minister for a second time – gave a conditional acceptance to the idea of a two-state solution.”

Stourton is of course referring to the Bar Ilan speech – which listeners then heard described thus:

Pfeffer: “It was very much a pragmatic rhetorical compromise made because he was dealing with the Obama administration which at the time was putting a lot of emphasis on trying to solve the Palestinian issue and therefore he had to make that concession. If you read those speeches then – the entire speeches – in the fine print you’ll find that he made so many conditions for the establishment of a Palestinian state as to render it almost impossible to ever exist.”

With no mention of the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to come to the negotiating table throughout most of the 2009-10 freeze on new construction in Judea & Samaria, Stourton’s portrayal continued:

Stourton: “The last real peace-making push came during Bara Obama’s second term when John Kerry was Secretary of State.”

Martin Indyk then told listeners that “neither Netanyahu nor Abu Mazen [Abbas] believed that the other was actually serious about making peace and neither of these leaders was being pressed by their publics to make peace because their publics didn’t believe in it.”

Listeners were not however told the real reasons for the collapse of that particular round of talks – including the announcement of Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ which is relevant to Stourton’s next statement.  

Stourton: “On the Palestinian side the stalemate has been attended by a collapse of confidence in the two-state solution and political chaos. The divisions between the Hamas hard-liners and Mahmoud Abbas’ once dominant Fatah movement have become more intractable than ever.”

Listeners heard Gabrielle Rifkind tell them that “the level of kind of tensions and rivalry there is very problematic” and that Palestinians have “lost faith in their leadership and so they’re no longer believing in the idea of a two-state solution” and “they talk about one state, a binational state”. She did not bother to inform BBC audiences of the relevant fact that Hamas – which garnered the majority of support from the Palestinian public last time elections were held in 2006 – has never pretended to support the two-state solution.

Stourton then introduced Dr Khalil Shikaki “director of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah” who told listeners that:

Shikaki: “Most Palestinians are highly pessimistic about the chances of creating a Palestinian State alongside the State of Israel. A lot of those who used to support the two-state solution have now shifted to supporting a one-state solution.”

Those interested in a rather less superficial view of Shikaki’s research can find it here.

Stourton: “What do they envisage?”

Shikaki: “Well to be honest we don’t know exactly what they envisage. […] they want a one-state whereby current Israeli Jews and Palestinians would have equal rights. The state itself would have no national or religious identity. [….] some believe in a bi-national state where the two groups would remain, would maintain their national identities…”

Stourton: “So the idea of a state that is both Jewish and democratic, which has been at the heart of the whole project of Israel, that doesn’t really survive either of those scenarios, does it?”

Shikaki: “No absolutely not.”

Stourton then turned to the subject of demography, claiming that “even if you take Gaza out of the equation, the population percentages in what might be described as a greater Israel present a real challenge – not least because the Palestinian population is growing faster.”

Dennis Ross next told listeners that “Israel and the West Bank….60% Jews to 40% Arabs” and went on:

Ross: “…I think that the issue of Israel becoming a bi-national Jewish-Arab state is one that is quite real. Most Israelis are not addressing it now because they’re looking at the region. They see how terrible the wars in the region are where there’s no limits, where civilians are fair game, where hospitals are a natural target and they say why should we take the risk, especially when we don’t see any opportunity. The danger with that is that it maintains this kind of drift towards a new reality which raises basic questions. Will this be one state with two peoples and if so, how are you going to manage that?”

Stourton: “One way of managing a bi-national state would be to relegate Palestinians to second class citizens without full rights which would sit uneasily with Israel’s proud claim to be a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. The alternative would be to accept that the State of Israel will no longer be a Jewish state.”

Listeners heard Yossi Beilin’s comments on that issue, including “in the Holocaust no country in the world was ready to absorb Jews including Palestine because it was under the British mandate. And the most important notion of a sovereign Jewish state is that it will allow Jews to immigrate to it without restrictions”.

Stourton: “On the Israeli side one party in Mr Netanyahu’s coalition government has put forward a radical solution of its own. Naftali Bennett – one of his ministers – has proposed what he calls the Israel stability initiative.”

A recording of Naftali Bennett speaking was heard before Stourton went on:

Stourton: “Under his plan Israel would hand over Gaza to the Egyptians unilaterally, annex most of the West Bank and allow the Palestinian Authority to run what remained with, however, Israel retaining control of security. Mr Bennett is opposed to any kind of Palestinian state.”

Stourton did not bother to clarify to listeners that what he described as “most of the West Bank” is actually Area C and that Bennett’s proposal is to offer “full Israeli citizenship to the 80,000 Palestinians living there”.

Stourton: “Mr Bennett is one of those we wanted to talk to for this programme but his office never responded to our request. On the Palestinian side the Hamas movement also has a radical vision. It has now expressed a willingness to accept the idea of a Palestinian state within those 1967 boundaries but it’s still, in the long term, committed to the liberation of all Palestine which would of course mean the end of Israel.”

After a recording of part of the US president’s announcement concerning the relocation of his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, Stourton continued:

Stourton: “President Trump has taken two steps which reduced the pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu. He moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, thus recognising the city – to which the Palestinians also make a claim – as Israel’s capital. And he pulled out of his predecessor’s nuclear deal with Iran: a step that’s been taken as an endorsement of the Netanyahu view that Palestinians can be relegated to a lower place in the diplomatic running order.”

Listeners were not told who exactly takes that view besides those making the statements they then heard supporting it.

Rifkind: “I think on the Israeli side, certainly among the leadership, it’s quite easy to keep your head in the sand. You can think you’re in quite a strong position. You just need to look at Netanyahu who’s very good friends with Putin and Trump and the relationships have never been better with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States and you can think well maybe we can just manage this conflict.”

Pfeffer: “Even the major Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Egypt seem of have got tired of even paying lip-service to the Palestinian cause. So yeah; he feels that his vision is winning.”

Stourton: “That means the stalemate and the violence associated with it are likely to continue.”

Once again the Iranian part of the story of shifts in the stances of Middle East states was erased from audience view.

With less than three minutes of the programme left, listeners next heard Dennis Ross make the most realistic and relevant comment in the entire discussion.

Ross:  “…I’ll tell you I don’t see – even if we could agree to a two-state outcome – I don’t know how you implement that because right now Hamas is in Gaza and I don’t see anybody moving Hamas out. The Israelis are not going to move them out. Egypt is not going to move them out. The Palestinian Authority is incapable of moving them out. And so even if you could agree to a two-state outcome – which is itself a leap at this point – you couldn’t implement it.”

Stourton: “In Israel that realism has led to a certain resignation and many Israelis now talk about managing the problem.”

Audiences then heard two negative views of that approach:

Beilin: “I hate this idea of managing conflicts”

Pfeffer: “Well you know it’s a dreadful phrase…”

Pfeffer went on to claim that “..there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight; certainly not with the current Israeli and with the current Palestinian leaderships” before Stourton returned to his context-free presentation of the violent rioting and terror attacks along the Gaza border:

Stourton: “So incidents like the shootings in Gaza become just something one has to accept according to that strategy.”

Pfeffer: “Yes, it’s the equivalent of a bad news day really.”

Stourton closed the programme by bringing up the topic of the Trump administration’s “new peace plan”:

Stourton: “Mr Trump is something of a hero in Israel. When America moved its embassy to Jerusalem his picture went up on posters all over the city. Among Palestinians hopes for a new Trump initiative are – to put it mildly – on the low side. According to Dr Shikaki’s data 90% of Palestinians believe no good can come from a Trump administration.”

As Stourton admitted early on, this programme did not even try to give audiences an objective and balanced view of the reasons why the ‘peace process’ has failed to make inroads after so many years and that editorial decision in itself is a topic for discussion. The quaint view that only Israel needs to have “a long-term strategy” because it is “a fully functioning state with military superiority” clearly deliberately ignores the very relevant fact that no such process can succeed without leaders on both sides being committed to its aims.

But even given the programme producers’ bizarre decision to present a one-sided narrative, crucial elements of the story were omitted. The history – which of course includes three full-scale wars initiated by Arab countries attempting – unsuccessfully – to eradicate the Jewish state – is highly relevant to audience understanding of the background to the conflict, as are decades of Palestinian terrorism that peaked when peace seemed to be on the horizon.

The Palestinian Authority’s ongoing incitement to violence, glorification of terrorism and payment of salaries to convicted terrorists is also a crucial part of the picture, as is Iranian funding of Palestinian terrorism. And no less relevant of course are the proposals put forward by Israeli prime minister Olmert and US president Clinton which the Palestinians refused.

While this Radio 4 portrayal presented Palestinians as being in favour of the two-state solution but turning to the one-state option out of disillusion, notably it failed to inform BBC audiences of the crucial context of the Palestinian Authority’s continued rejection of the demand to recognise Israel as the Jewish state – and thus bring an end to any future claims.

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Weekend long read

1) While Adalah is not the BBC’s most frequently quoted and promoted political NGO, it does appear in BBC content from time to time. David Collier has taken a closer look at one of that NGO’s flagship projects.

“Adalah are an NGO in Israel that claims to promote human rights in Israel in general and the rights of the Arab citizens of Israel ‘in particular’.

Adalah created a database of ‘discriminatory laws’ that has been used as a central pillar for anti-Israel boycott activities (BDS). Adalah’s database is the primary source for one of the three aims of the boycott Israel movement.

These laws are referenced everywhere. In the UN, in every anti-Israel meeting, in many European governments. There is hardly an anti-Israel book that is published that does not reference the list of laws. The list is a pillar of the boycott Israel movement.

Just one problem: The list is little more than a scam.”

2) MEMRI documents some of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah PR campaign against the anticipated US administration peace initiative.

“Even before its terms have been publicized, the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan, known as “the Deal of the Century,” has encountered harsh opposition from the Palestinian Authority (PA), on the grounds that it does not promote peace but seeks to eliminate the Palestinian national identity and the Palestinian state and to topple the Palestinian leadership. Against this backdrop, PA elements have directed personal attacks at the U.S. officials promoting the deal. […]

Harsh criticism against the deal and its proponents was also voiced by Fatah, whose chairman is Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas. Recently the movement announced the launching of “a national campaign to thwart the Deal of the Century.””

3) At the INSS Gallia Lindenstrauss reviews “The Elections in Turkey: Strengthened Ultra-Nationalist Forces and the Possible Impact on Turkish Foreign Policy”.

“In Turkey’s June 24, 2018 elections, incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected for another term, and the ultra-nationalist parties grew stronger. This is significant first and foremost in the Kurdish context, since the nationalists can be expected to be among the main opponents of renewing the peace process with the Kurdish underground. This will also have extensive repercussions on Turkish foreign policy toward Syria and Iraq, and as such, on Turkey’s relations with the regional and global powers.”

4) At the Times of Israel Ari Ingel discusses “Israel, Gaza, and International Law”.

“Pro-Palestinian commentators and social media activists have been lambasting Israel over the course of the recent Gaza demonstrations for violating international law with proclamations of war crimes and human rights violations.

While a law degree apparently comes free with every twitter account, much of this talk is mere bluster with no foundation in the actual law itself, but rather, espoused with an intention to falsely vilify Israel and its leaders in the court of public opinion.” 

Weekend long read

1) At the JCPA Amb. Alan Baker discusses Palestinian violations of international law.

“On June 1, 2018, France, Russia, China, Sweden, and others supported a Kuwait-sponsored draft resolution in the Security Council deploring Israel’s use of “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinian civilians, and condemning the use by Israel’s forces of live ammunition against civilian protesters. It sought to call upon the UN to act to “guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population, including recommendations for an international protection mechanism.”

The call in the opening provision of the draft resolution to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law, would appear to be all the more cynical in light of the flagrant violations by the Palestinian leadership and Hamas of international humanitarian and human rights law. This is especially the case with their willful and deliberate use of women and children, pollution of the environment, and burning and destruction of crops and agricultural produce.”

2) The Middle East Forum has published a report on the charity ‘Islamic Relief’ – which the BBC told its audiences in 2014 had been ‘cleared’ of a “terror funding claim”.

“A new Middle East Forum report reveals that Islamic Relief, a “charity” supported by European and American governments, finances Hamas front organizations. […]

Founded in 1984 in Birmingham, England, Islamic Relief, with branches in over 20 countries, is the largest Islamic charity in the West. It has received at least $80 million over the past ten years from Western governments and international bodies, including the United Nations. It received more than $700,000 from U.S. taxpayers during the past two years. Its officials are members of government advisory panels, while Western cabinet ministers, European royalty, and Trump administration officials speak at its events.

Islamic Relief is, however, banned in both Israel and the United Arab Emirates because of links to terror. The MEF report, Islamic Relief: Charity, Extremism and Terror, confirms its ties to extremism in the West and to terrorism-linked groups in the Middle East.”

3) Emanuele Ottolenghi explains how “Lebanon Is Protecting Hezbollah’s Cocaine Trade in Latin America“.

“Paraguay hosts a significant and growing money laundering operation connected to Hezbollah in the Triple Frontier, where Paraguay intersects with Argentina and Brazil. Increasingly, Hezbollah’s local operatives are involved in the local boom of cocaine trafficking — and there is evidence that Hezbollah is sending senior officials to the Triple Frontier to coordinate these activities.

After more than a decade when U.S. policymakers neglected the Triple Frontier, federal investigations are now finally unearthing multibillion-dollar criminal schemes run by Hezbollah. It was no surprise that Hezbollah would push back by leveraging local influence. It was less obvious that it would do so through the Lebanese Embassy, which is, technically speaking, an arm of the state institutions Washington wants to strengthen as a counterweight to Hezbollah.”

4) Ha’aretz has produced a video about the Palestinian arson attacks the BBC has been so reluctant to report.

BBC portrayal of US decision to leave UNHRC – part two

In part one of this post we saw how the BBC News website’s portrayal of the June 19th US announcement that it would leave the UN Human Rights Council failed to clarify to audiences that the decision – which had been on the cards for a year – came about because the UNHRC did not carry out what the US considers to be “essential reforms”.

The same story was the topic of an item aired in the June 19th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’. Presenter Ritula Shah introduced it (from 22:35 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Shah: “Well a body that might have been charged with examining Italy’s plans for the Roma is the United Nations Human Rights Council and in the last few minutes the United States has announced that it’s pulling out of that organisation. The US ambassador to the UN is Nikki Haley.”

Listeners then heard a recording of part of the statement made by the US Ambassador at the press conference at which the US decision was announced.

Haley: “…the United States is officially withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council. In doing so, I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from human rights commitments; on the contrary, we take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.”

Shah: “The mission of the UNHRC is to promote and protect human rights around the world. But when it was founded in 2006 the Bush administration declined to join, complaining that it included repressive states. The US has also repeatedly accused the body of being anti-Israel. Washington relented under President Obama and the US has been among the 47 countries elected to the council three times with the last 3-year term beginning in 2016.”

Remarkably the person chosen by ‘The World Tonight’ to comment on that story was the head of a political NGO with a long-standing anti-Israel bias who himself is infamous for having something of an obsession – particularly visible on Twitter – with that country. ‘Human Rights Watch’ had put out a press release concerning the US decision prior to this programme going on air and some of its themes were recycled in the Radio 4 item.

Shah: “Well Kenneth Roth is the executive director of the international human rights organisation ‘Human Rights Watch’ and he joins me now. [….] Kenneth Roth; Nikki Haley says the US hasn’t retreated from its human rights commitments. What difference then will its departure make – from the council – make?”

Roth: “Well I mean I wish it were true that the US hadn’t retreated from its commitments. I don’t see a lot of effort to stop, you know, Syrian slaughter of civilians, to stop the Saudis from indiscriminately bombing and starving civilians in Yemen, to defend the Rohingya who were ethnically cleansed from Myanmar. So you know I would quarrel with her there but in terms of the UN Human Rights Council, you know the US seems to be making two points. One is that some abusive states sit on the council – which is true. And that’s really the fault of different regions of the world who nominate them and then don’t give the UN General Assembly members the choice. They basically say ‘here are the same number of candidates as openings: take ’em or leave ’em’. And you have no choice but to take them.”

Shah: “So among the current members: the DRC, Egypt, China – all of which could be criticized for their human rights record.”

Roth’s agenda then became apparent:

Roth: “Absolutely. But even given that, the Human Rights Council has done a lot of good. It has actually done very serious investigations and condemnations in places like Syria, Yemen, North Korea, Myanmar. The problem is, it also criticises Israel and what this is really about…”

Shah [interrupts]: “But it’s a bit more than just criticising Israel, isn’t it? Israel is the only country that actually has a permanent space on its [the UNHRC] agenda – so-called Agenda 7 – which stipulates that alleged Israeli human rights abuses in the Palestinian conflict should be reviewed every council meeting.”

Roth: “That’s true and that’s something that the US has complained about a lot. But the truth is the US votes against resolutions criticising Israel even under other agenda items that apply to everybody. So it’s a bit hypocritical. Yes, they can complain about Agenda Item 7 but it never criticises Israel’s human rights abuses under this administration.”

Shah: “But it is strange that in that sense the US isn’t the only country that’s pointed this out. Even Ban Ki Moon the former UN Secretary General and the EU have pointed out that singling out Israel when there are human rights abuses all over the world is strange and slightly undermines the council’s credibility.”

Roth: “Well you know ‘Human Rights Watch’ has pointed this out as well but the real issue is, you know, does the Human Rights Council do more good than harm and it does enormous good in many places around the world.

Roth’s claim that HRW “has pointed this out” is apparently based on previous statements the NGO’s staff such as this one last year from its Geneva director, John Fisher, in which he effectively compared Israel’s human rights record to those of two repressive dictators infamous for murdering their own people:

“Fisher said Israel’s human rights record did warrant Council scrutiny, but the special focus was “a reasonable concern”.

“It is an anomaly that there is a dedicated agenda item in a way that there isn’t for North Korea or Syria or anything else,” he said.”

Roth went on to promote more of the messaging found in his NGO’s press release, even using the same words:

Roth: “But the Trump administration basically has a one-dimensional human rights policy. Ahm…it wants to defend Israel from criticisms above all else. So even given this…ahm…this fault in the council that it has this idiosyncratic stand-alone item for Israel, none the less most governments say we’re gonna work with the council; we can try to amend that Agenda Item but it does a lot of good. But the Trump administration’s in essence saying that we want to undermine the council because it criticises Israel…”

Shah: “Well it is interesting though….”

Roth: “…and the rest of the good work it does can be damned.”

Shah: “Item 7 was inserted after the organisation was formed. Perhaps if some sort of reform of the council to make it more balanced, to take into account the points that you’ve made at the beginning that it also includes countries that actually could be accused of human rights abuses, when actually its formation, its purpose is supposed to defend human rights and demand of its members the highest standards in defending human rights – those issues could have been tackled, couldn’t they?”

Shah failed to inform listeners that the US had been trying for a year to introduce exactly such reforms. Neither was it clarified to audiences that the “reform process” subsequently referred to by Roth is not the same one that the US was promoting or that his organisation – along with others – had actively opposed the US’s proposed reforms.

Roth: “Yes, there’s actually an active reform process underway at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. And the US government was participating in that process until now. Now it’s walking away. So ironically it’s less likely to get any reforms by turning its back on the council but that’s why I don’t think this move is really about reform. This move is about trying to discredit the council because the council criticises Israel and that one-dimensional policy is just fortunately not where the rest of the world is. The rest of the world recognises there’s a need to address serious problems elsewhere in the world as well.”

Ritula Shah closed the item there. Listeners were not informed – as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality require – of the “particular viewpoint” of Ken Roth and Human Rights Watch on Israel despite that being of obvious relevance since his messaging was given an almost unchallenged stage.

And so, listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard a person presented as the head of an authoritative sounding “international human rights organisation” telling them repeatedly that the US withdrawal from the UNHRC is actually “really about” Israel and – as was the case in his organisation’s press release – that because of Israel, human rights in the rest of the world will suffer.  

Related Articles:

BBC portrayal of US decision to leave UNHRC – part one

BBC News website amplifies the NGO echo-chamber

 

Revisiting a 2014 BBC report by Jon Donnison

Readers may recall that four years ago the BBC’s Jon Donnison reported on the death of a Palestinian man while concealing the fact that he was a member of a proscribed terror organisation and portraying him instead as a ‘charity worker’.

In his July 2014 filmed report for BBC News Donnison told audiences the following story:

“Palestinian grief. Not in Gaza, but in the West Bank. Hashem Abu Maria was shot dead by Israeli soldiers last week as he demonstrated against Israel’s actions in Gaza. He was 47 years old, a father of three and worked for a children’s charity. By his graveside his wife Samira tells me Hashem gave his life trying to protect children.”

While Donnison did not state the name of that “children’s charity”, as was noted here at the time Abu Maria worked for the political NGO Defence for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-P or DCI-Pal). 

However, he was also described as a “fighter commander” in an obituary published by the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and as a “commander” in a poster put out by the terror group on social media.

The longstanding links between the PFLP and the ‘children’s charity’ DCI-Pal were noted in a recent article at Tablet Magazine concerning donations made to a Palestinian coalition that includes proscribed terror groups via an American non-profit organisation that supports the anti-Israel BDS campaign.

“As publicly available resources in Arabic show, the DCIP has had several previous board members and staffers who have been involved with the PFLP. They include DCIP board member Hassan Abed Aljawad, a PFLP leader representing the terrorist organization at public events as recently as 2016; DCIP board member Mahmoud Jiddah, a former PFLP member who had been jailed for 17 years for carrying out grenade attacks against Israeli civilians in Jerusalem in 1968; DCIP board secretary and attorney Fatima Daana, who is the widow of Raed Nazzal, former commander of the PFLP’s armed wing in Qalqilya; DCIP former board member Shawan Jabarin, who was convicted of recruiting members to the PFLP in 1985 and identified in 1994 by Israel to the U.N. Commission of Human Rights as being a senior member of the PFLP; DCIP former board member Hashem Abu Maria, identified by the PFLP as one of its “deputy comrades” and a “fighting commander” in an obituary published on the PFLP website in Arabic and killed during a violent clash with IDF forces (the DCIP’s 2014 report is dedicated to Abu Maria); DCIP former board member Nassar Ibrahim, the former editor in chief of the PFLP weekly publication, El Hadaf; and DCIP former board member Dr. Majed Nassar, the deputy director of the Union of Health Work Committees, which was identified by USAID as a PFLP affiliate in 1993.”

An article also published earlier this month at the Jerusalem Post noted that:

“The Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), a major American foundation that contributes to many pro-Palestinian causes, gave grants to organizations which funnel money and support to terrorist groups, and continued to do so after being told about the NGOs’ activities, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The two organizations are Education for Just Peace in the Middle East, also known as the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and Defense for Children International-Palestine, which received grants of $60,000 and $25,000, respectively, from the RBF in March 2017. [….]

In addition to the RBF, DCI-P receives money from UNICEF as an “implementing partner” for the UN agency’s projects, even though it violates both UNICEF and UN guidelines for partners to be “neutral, impartial and independent from all parties to the conflict.””

Readers may recall that in July 2017 the BBC’s Stephen Sackur cited a UNICEF report based on information produced by DCI-Pal that he described to BBC audiences as “saying the ill-treatment of children who came into contact with the military detention system in the West Bank appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised”.

The article continues:

“DCI-P employee Hashem Abu Maria was hailed as a leader of the PFLP, after he was killed by the IDF in a violent confrontation in Beit Umar in July 2014. DCI-P director Rifat Odeh Kassis spoke at Abu Maria’s memorial service, surrounded by PFLP flags and posters.

The PFLP wrote on its website that Abu Maria “was in the ranks of the national liberation struggle and the PFLP from an early age, arrested several times, and was a model for a steadfast struggler and advocate for the rights of our people through his work in Defense for Children International.””

Four years after its initial appearance, Jon Donnison’s 2014 filmed report – “West Bank Palestinians politically divided, but united in anger” – is still available online. No effort has been made to amend it in order to clarify to BBC audiences that the man sympathetically described only as a charity worker was also a member of a terror organisation.

Given that last year the BBC pledged that “complaints about online material more than 30 days old will be dealt with appropriately”, obviously that amendment is long overdue.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Jon Donnison misrepresents PFLP ‘fighter commander’ as charity worker

Revisiting the BBC News website’s PFLP profile

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At Tablet Magazine, Armin Rosen and Liel Leibovitz document “Connections between an American charity and Hamas, PFLP, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad”.

“Over the past decade, as the prospects of peace between Israelis and Palestinians became ever slimmer, there has been a growing attention to—and, in some quarters, acceptance of—the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement targeting Israel, or BDS. Those drawn to the cause have likely come across the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, a Virginia-based nonprofit organization that serves as the American umbrella group of the BDS movement and is arguably the most prominent promoter of BDS in the United States. The US Campaign, which is officially called Education for Just Peace in the Middle East, coordinates the efforts of 329 different pro-BDS organizations “working to advocate for Palestinian rights and a shift in US policy … bound by commonly shared principles on Palestine solidarity as well as our anti-racism principles,” according to the group’s website.

But as Tablet confirmed, the group also helps facilitate tax-exempt donations to a Palestinian coalition that includes Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups the U.S. State Department designates as terror organizations.”

2) Jonathan Spyer discusses “Iran’s response: the ‘Strategy of Tension’“.

“The United States and its allies are currently in the opening stages of the pursuit of a strategy to contain and roll back the Islamic Republic of Iran from a number of points in the Middle East.  This strategy is set to include an economic element (renewed sanctions, a military aspect (involving Israeli action against Iran in Syria, and the Saudi/UAE campaign against the Houthis in Yemen, and a primarily political effort (in Iraq and to a lesser extent in Lebanon).

Iran can be expected to respond with a counter-strategy of its own, designed to stymy and frustrate western and allied efforts.  What form will this Iranian response take?  What assets does Iran possess in the furtherance of this goal?”

3) NGO Monitor has published a report on grants given to Israeli NGOs (some of which are regularly quoted and promoted in BBC content) between the years 2012 and 2016.

“Given the central role played by politicized non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the public human rights discourse, transparency in NGO funding is required in order to bolster informed debate. The following analysis presents all grants reported annually by 39 Israeli NGOs in the years 2012-2016, organizing data according to the amount of the grant, the identity of the donor, the source of the grant (private, governmental, or non-transparent/ unclear) and whether the donor is recognized as a government or from church groups. […]

Of the 39 groups examined, 28 receive more than 50% of their funding from governments. The three NGOs receiving the highest share of foreign government funding are Akevot (100%), Terrestrial Jerusalem (99.66%), and Who Profits (94.49%).

25 governmental and intergovernmental entities – including the EU, UN, and the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (see below) – fund these 39 Israeli NGOs. Germany is the largest donor, providing NIS 49,688,588, followed by the EU and Norway.”

4) At the Algemeiner, Efraim Karsh explains why “In Gaza, It’s Not the Economy, Stupid“.

“…at the time Arafat launched his war of terrorism in September 2000, Palestinian income per capita was nearly double Syria’s, more than four times that of Yemen, and 10% higher than Jordan’s — one of the better-off Arab states. Only the oil-rich Gulf states and Lebanon were more affluent.

By the time of Arafat’s death in November 2004, his terrorism war had slashed this income to a fraction of its earlier levels, with real GDP per capita some 35% below the pre-September 2000 level, unemployment more than double, and numerous Palestinians reduced to poverty and despondency. And while Israel’s suppression of the terrorism war generated a steady recovery, with the years 2007-2011 even recording an average yearly growth above 8%, by mid-2014 a full blown recession had taken hold, especially in the Gaza Strip.

Indeed, apart from reflecting the West Bank’s basic socioeconomic superiority vis-à-vis Gaza, the widening gap between the two areas during the Oslo years (the difference in per capita income shot up from 14% to 141%) was a direct corollary of Hamas’ transformation of the Strip into an unreconstructed terrorist entity, in contrast to the West Bank’s relative tranquility in the post-intifada years.”

 

How BBC News framed the Argentina-Israel football match story

h/t Akiva S

In the early hours of June 6th the BBC News website published an article concerning the cancellation of a friendly football match between Israel and Argentina that was due to have been played on June 9th.

The BBC’s chosen framing of the background to the cancellation was apparent in the article’s headline – “Argentina cancels Israel World Cup friendly after Gaza violence” – and in its tagging – “Gaza border clashes” – as well as its opening lines.

“Argentina has cancelled a World Cup warm-up match with Israel, apparently under political pressure over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.”

Readers of the article’s first three versions were told that: [emphasis added]

“News of the cancellation was met with cheers in Gaza, where at least 120 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during recent protests.”

And:

“The campaign group Avaaz, which had called for the game to be cancelled, praised what it called a “brave ethical decision”.

“This proves Argentina understands there is nothing friendly about playing in Jerusalem, when just miles away Israeli snipers are shooting unarmed protesters,” said Alice Jay, campaign director at Avaaz.”

Only in the fourth version of the report, which appeared some six hours after its initial publication – was an ‘Israel said’ nod to supposed BBC editorial standards on impartiality added:

“Israel said its snipers had only opened fire in self-defence or on people trying to infiltrate its territory under cover of the protests orchestrated by the Hamas militant group, which runs Gaza.”

No effort was made to inform readers in the BBC’s own words that more than 80% of the people portrayed by the BBC simply as “Palestinians” and inaccurately described as all being “unarmed protesters” by the representative of the political NGO that the BBC chose to quote and promote have in fact been shown to be linked to terror organisations.

The BBC refrained from reminding readers that both Avaaz and another party it chose to quote in this report were among those behind a campaign (unsuccessful, but amplified by the BBC at the time) against Israeli membership of the international governing body of football – FIFA.  

“In Ramallah in the West Bank, the Palestinian football association issued a statement thanking Argentina striker Lionel Messi and his colleagues for the cancellation.

“Values, morals and sport have secured a victory today and a red card was raised at Israel through the cancellation of the game,” said chairman Jibril Rajoub, quoted by Reuters news agency.

Mr Rajoub, who had before the reported cancellation called for Palestinians to burn replica shirts and pictures of Messi, announced that he would hold a press conference on Wednesday.”

Rajoub’s widely publicised provocations (which also included the use of a Nazi analogy and denial of Jewish history) were not the only aggression experienced by the Argentinian footballers

“Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie did not confirm the game had been axed, but told reporters in Washington on the sidelines of the Organization of American States meeting that he believed players had been reluctant to travel to Israel for the game. […]

Faurie said players had received threats over playing the game and were uncomfortable with it going ahead.

He also cited jerseys stained with red paint resembling blood which had been displayed at a protest outside the team’s practice facility in Barcelona Tuesday as a cause for concern.” [emphasis added]

Argentine Football Association vice president Hugo Moyano was reported as saying that:

“…threats to the team as they trained in Barcelona were affecting the players’ families. On Tuesday, a group of Catalan pro-Palestinian protesters called out the names of the players and asked them not to participate in the “cover-up” of a social conflict. Photos on social media showed an Argentina shirt stained in “blood.”” [emphasis added]

Numerous media outlets quoted one player’s reaction to the cancellation:

“Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain expressed relief at the decision, telling ESPN: “In the end, they’ve done right thing, and this is behind us. Health and common sense come first. We felt that it wasn’t right to go.””

In the BBC’s report, however, a truncated version of that quote was presented as supporting the BBC’s framing of the reason for the cancellation rather than relating to the threats against players that the BBC did not fully report.

The BBC’s report tells readers that the venue for the game is located in “West Jerusalem”.

“The match, which was to be Argentina’s final game before the start of their World Cup campaign in Russia later this month, was set to be played at a stadium in West Jerusalem.”

The fact that the Argentinian national team played (and lost) a friendly match against Israel in the same Teddy stadium twenty years ago was not mentioned. The article went on:

“The status of Jerusalem is highly sensitive. Israel regards Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital. Palestinians see the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future Palestinian state, and were angered by a decision to relocate the game there from Haifa.”

As was the case in BBC reporting on the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, readers were not provided with any explanation as to why a ninety-minute football match at a location in Jerusalem to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim should ‘anger’ Palestinians.

Related Articles:

BBC amplified anti-Israel campaign rejected by FIFA

Inaccuracy, omission and oddity in a BBC Radio Ulster item on Israel – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the May 20th edition of the BBC Radio Ulster “religious and ethical news” programme ‘Sunday Sequence‘ included a long item (from 34:04 here and also aired on BBC Radio Foyle) supposedly about the state of the ‘peace process’ after the May 14th chapter of the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt on the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

“After a week of horror in Gaza, is the roadmap to peace now in complete ruins? Dr Julie Norman, Rev Gary Mason and Tom Clonan discuss how peace could somehow yet be found.”

After listeners had heard Tom Clonan’s inaccurate account of Operation Grapes of Wrath – and been led to believe that Israel was essentially to blame for the 9/11 terror attacks – and Julie Norman’s concealment of the fact that the overwhelming majority of those killed on May 14th were males in their twenties and thirties, presenter Roisin McAuley (once again exaggerating the significance of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict) asked guest Gary Mason:

[39:01] “Now, given that situation, Gary, intractability, the importance for all of us of finding a way out of this absolute morass, where do you begin?”

Mason’s response [from 39:13] included the predictable – yet invalid – claim that it is possible to use the Good Friday Agreement as a template for solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Picking up on Mason’s reference to “the role of civic society” in peacemaking, Julie Norman then inaccurately claimed that violent actions such as the ‘Great Return March’ or the rioting in Bili’in are grassroots peace initiatives.

[42:47] Norman: “…but what you see with the kind of protests at the border, what you see with weekly demonstrations against the separation barrier – these are activists and people who refuse to give in to that despair and who are trying to take some kind of action despite the odds and despite the limitations of the larger political reality…”  

Following some echo-chamber agreement between Mason and McAuley with regard to the US administration’s role in solving the conflict – and the claim that the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem was “a real slap in the face to Palestinians” – the presenter continued:

[45:07] McAuley: “So Tom, who in your opinion can help then? If the US is not in a position to be seen as an honest broker, who is?”

Clonan: “I would strongly hope that the European Union would step up to the plate and begin to impose sanctions and trade embargoes on Israel. And I certainly think individually as nations we could begin by boycotting the Eurovision Song Contest next year. And I say that with great regret because I’m on the record…I’ve written to all of the newspapers in the [Irish] Republic repeatedly over the years saying that we should not boycott Israel. But unfortunately of late Israel has been behaving like a rogue state and should be treated as pariah by the international community. I mean there was a great deal of unanimity of condemnation, quite rightly, of a chemical attack – or a suspected chemical attack – on civilians in the suburbs of Damascus. We also expelled diplomats on suspicion of a chemical weapon attack in Salisbury which injured – seriously injured – two people. Now we need to have that same level of unanimity when it comes to Israel’s actions this week.”

Following some reminiscing from Clonan about the Irish peace process, McAuley revisited his BDS messaging while again promoting her own pet ‘most important thing in the world’ theme.

[48:54] McAuley: “What you’re underlining, Tom, is the importance of this for the region and indeed for the wider world. But are you seriously suggesting that in some way that boycotting a song festival would make any difference at all? I mean why not try to seriously engage with Israel and with everybody on this?”

Clonan: “Israel isn’t interested in engagement just now. I think they feel that their military or their use of force has been rewarded and their behaviour has deteriorated somewhat. I think unfortunately that the situation with Iran – the US withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal at a point where you have youth unemployment in Iran at 60%, where 90% of those arrested in recent civil unrest are under 25 – there’s a youth bulge in Iran that threatens to destabilise the old guard, the ageing Ayatollah. President Rouhani’s government, you know, they’ve managed with considerable pushback to get the Iran deal. I think there’s a sense – and this is what I’m being told by my contacts amongst the international defence and international community – that Israel, the United States and their Gulf state allies detect a last moment of weakness in…within Iran as Shia ascendency reaches its zenith in the region.

What all that has to do with the item’s professed subject matter is of course as clear as mud. McAuley however chose to continue the ‘youth bulge’ theme.

[48:25] McAuley: “You mentioned a youth bulge. There is a youth bulge in Palestine as well. There is a growing number…this is a numbers game to some extent is it not, Julie?”

While acknowledging a “very high youth demographic in Palestine“, Norman responded that she would not equate that with destabilisation.

Norman: “Whether it’s Iran or Palestine, I don’t think we need to fear the youth bulge.”

McAuley then claimed that “eventually, in Israel and the occupied territories as a whole, there will be more Palestinians than there are Israelis”. Norman’s answer to that included the claim that:

[49:22] Norman: “…Israel is wielding power in very violent ways as we saw on Monday and throughout the past several weeks. And it’s not just numbers when one group is living under occupation.”

The fact that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip 13 years ago of course did not get a mention at all in this entire item.

At 50:06 Gary Mason raised the topic of the role of women in making peace, stating that he is a member of the advisory board of an Israeli organisation called ‘Women Wage Peace’. He did not however bother to inform listeners that the group’s activities have been:

“…denounced by Hamas in an official statement, as well as by the Palestinian branch of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, both of which accused Palestinians participating in the initiative of “normalizing” relations with Israel.”

Again ignoring the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of Samaria in 2005, Mason went on to say that Israelis “may have to give up land for peace […] and we just need, I think, to bring that concept into it…”. Listeners were next treated to Mason’s home-grown psychological analysis of “the Israelis”.

In response to McAuley’s question [53:30] “from where can hope come?” Julie Norman again promoted the inaccurate notion that there are Palestinian civil society groups working for peace. Tom Clonan’s reply to the same question [54:15] included the following:

Clonan: “…essentially this is Semitic peoples killing Semitic…Arabs are a Semitic people. And I think with Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump you see the very essence of patriarchal thought which has led to so much destruction in the Middle East over the last two decades and if civil society, religious leaders and other leaders in society and women can be a part of the key to this solution to this, that would be wonderful because I don’t see a solution in the unilateral military intervention strategies that we’ve had post 2001 and 9/11 unfortunately.”

Notably, no-one in the studio bothered to question Clonan’s omission of Hamas from his list of those guilty of “patriarchal thought”.

At 56:33 – after Mason had again invoked the Northern Ireland comparison and claimed that people with a “military background” could also contribute to peacemaking, McAuley came up with the following bizarre claims:

McAuley: “I know that Peace Now – the big Israeli movement for peace and defence of the Palestinians and sitting down in front of tanks and so on that are about to destroy houses – that was founded by veterans of the 1948 war who had driven their tanks into Israel to take the land.”

Where those tanks had supposedly been driven from was not clarified to listeners before Clonan jumped in with a plug for yet another political NGO.

[56:58] Clonan: “And the Breaking the Silence movement as well: you know Israeli serving and ex-serving military. And I mean even from my own experience I mean I had my epiphany in the Middle East […] and to just witness man’s inhumanity to man and I mean it was only after becoming a parent myself that I was able to put my experiences into context. It was only after I buried my own little daughter that I understood what it was like for those Lebanese men, women and children to suffer in that way. And the Israelis in the settlement towns of Sderot and on the border that were being attacked by Hizballah indiscriminately. […] The constant disinhibited [sic], indiscriminate use of force at the moment, I think with that they’re sowing the seeds of their own destruction and what Israel needs in the Middle East is friends. And what better friends to have than the Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians. It is possible but we need imagination, we need leadership.”

The item closed soon after that. Only then, after nearly twenty-five minutes of hopelessly uninformed – and often downright ignorant – discussion, were listeners told that:

[58:56] McAuley: “The Israeli government response to the events on Monday was that the military actions were in keeping with Israeli and international law. They asserted that the demonstrations along the border were – quote – part of the conflict between the Hamas terrorist organisation and Israel. The military’s open fire orders, they said, were therefore subject to international humanitarian law – also known as the law of armed conflict – rather than international human rights law.”

Clearly this long item cannot possibly have contributed to audience understanding of the professed story and its context, riddled as it was with gross inaccuracies, deliberate distortions and important omissions – and not least the important issue of Hamas terrorism. The repeated inappropriate comparisons to the Northern Ireland conflict likewise detracted from listeners’ understanding of the background to the topic supposedly under discussion and the one-sided claims and comments from contributors and presenter alike – including promotion of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – are ample evidence that the prime aim of this item was to promote a specific political narrative.

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Inaccuracy, omission and oddity in a BBC Radio Ulster item on Israel – part one