BBC ignores UN SG’s admission of bias against Israel

Readers may recall that in February 2016 the BBC’s UN correspondent Nick Bryant told listeners to BBC World Service radio that:

“The Israelis always believe that they are victimized at the UN; that they are singled out unfairly; that they are isolated…”

However, as has been noted here before, Bryant did not provide BBC audiences with any relevant factual information which would enable them to understand the reality behind his portrayal of what Israelis “always believe”.  

As the current UN Secretary General’s term of office comes to an end, the BBC has found a ‘hint’ made at a final press conference newsworthy.ban-art-2

“UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has hinted that he may shortly run for the presidency of his native South Korea.

Mr Ban’s term as the world’s top diplomat expires at the end of December.

In his final press conference as UN chief, Mr Ban said that after some rest he will return to South Korea and consider how best to help his country.”

Not newsworthy for the BBC, however, was Ban’s acknowledgement of bias against Israel at the body he has headed for a decade in his last address to the UN Security Council.

“During the past ten years, I have argued that we must never accept bias against Israel within UN bodies.  Decades of political maneuverings have created a disproportionate volume of resolutions, reports and conferences criticizing Israel.  In many cases, rather than helping the Palestinian cause, this reality has hampered the ability of the UN to fulfill its role effectively.” 

As noted at the Tower:

“Ban criticized the UNHRC’s singular focus on Israel shortly after assuming his post in 2007, saying that he was “disappointed at the council’s decision to single out only one specific regional item, given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world.” […]

Earlier this year, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power underscored the injustice of the UN’s singular focus on Israel:

“As you all know, the UN Charter guarantees “the equal rights of nations large and small,” and yet we have seen member states seek to use the UN Security Council, the General Assembly, and even the most arcane UN committees in ways that cross the line from legitimate criticisms of Israel’s policies to attempts to delegitimize the state of Israel itself. The only country in the world with a standing agenda item at the Human Rights Council is not North Korea, a totalitarian state that is currently holding an estimated 100,000 people in gulags; not Syria, which has gassed its people – lots of them. It is Israel.

Bias has extended well beyond Israel as a country, Israel as an idea – it even extends to Israeli organizations. Some of you may know the group ZAKA – an Israeli humanitarian group that helps save lives in disasters and ensures proper burial for the victims of those tragedies. ZAKA not only works here in Israel, but it responds to natural and manmade disasters worldwide, as it did in New York after 9/11, and in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Yet when ZAKA was nominated in 2013 for accreditation by the UN’s NGO committee – and this accreditation is what gives NGOs the right to participate in UN meetings, the right to assert their voices, the right to raise causes that really can matter in the world – when ZAKA was put forward it was denied approval. Five subsequent times the committee met, and five times member states blocked ZAKA – not because of the quality of its work, people weren’t that interested in the quality of its work, but simply because ZAKA is an Israeli organization.”

Particularly as the BBC is prone to frequent uncritical amplification of UN officials’ statements concerning Israel, Ban’s acknowledgement of anti-Israel bias at that body is precisely the type of information that audiences need in order to enhance their understanding.

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What BBC audiences aren’t told about the UNHRC

Readers may recall that in February 2016 the BBC’s UN correspondent Nick Bryant told listeners to BBC World Service radio that:

“The Israelis always believe that they are victimized at the UN; that they are singled out unfairly; that they are isolated…”

Bryant did not however provide BBC audiences with any relevant factual information which would enable them to understand the reality behind his portrayal of what Israelis “always believe”.  

In his recent testimony to the US Congress on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the UN Human Rights Council, Hillel Neuer of UN Watch noted the tally of UNHRC condemnations over the last decade.Hillel Neuer UNHRC

“Despite the promise of ending selectivity, the Council’s pathological obsession with demonizing Israelis, and denying their human rights, has never been worse. Since its creation, the Council has adopted 67 resolutions condemning Israel—and only 61 on the rest of the world combined. The texts on Israel are uniquely suffused with the suppression of any countervailing facts that might provide balance.

Its commissions of inquiry like the Goldstone Report, which excoriated Israel while exonerating Hamas, initiated a new era whereby a terrorist group has come to rely on the Council as an effective international tool to achieve its deadly goals. Hamas is incentivized by the UN to launch rocket attacks against Israeli civilians while placing its own civilian population in harm’s way.

And just now, the Council instituted a UN black-list of Israeli companies, to have the UN implement the anti-Israeli BDS campaign—boycott, divestment and sanctions—and to strangle the economic life of Israeli citizens.” [emphasis added]

That is information which BBC audiences obviously need to know in order to be able to put statements such as the one above from Bryant into their correct context and its inclusion in the BBC’s profile of the UN would be a good place to start.

 

 

 

 

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ dodges the issue of UN bias against Israel

In addition to the BBC’s written and filmed reports concerning remarks made by the UN Secretary General on January 26th which were previously discussed here, audiences also heard an audio report (from 18:52 here) which was broadcast on BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’.Newshour logo

During the conversation between presenter Tim Franks and the BBC’s Nick Bryant listeners heard an account of Ban Ki Moon’s comments with Bryant telling listeners that he “called for a freeze on Israel’s settlement activity”. As was also the case in the written and filmed reports, Bryant did not clarify that an informal construction freeze has been in place for “almost two years” according to Ha’aretz.

In response to Tim Franks’ question about the Israeli reaction to Ban Ki Moon’s remarks, Bryant replied:

“Well there’s been a very strong reaction from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israelis always believe that they are victimized at the UN; that they are singled out unfairly; that they are isolated…”

Neither he nor Franks provided listeners with any of the amply available relevant information which would allow them to understand the background to that portrayal – including admissions by Ban Ki Moon himself and his predecessor.

Later on Bryant told listeners:

“But it was the words of Ban Ki Moon that really created the headlines out of that meeting and I sense that, you know, clearly he is deeply troubled by these reports that the Israeli government has approved plans for over 150 new homes in what he calls illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank…”

As was the case in the written and filmed reports, Bryant made no effort to clarify to audiences that there had been no official confirmation of that supposed planning approval or that the “reports” he quotes come from the political NGO ‘Peace Now’. Bryant went on:

“…and that comes off the back of a declaration last week that an area of land – 370 acres in the West Bank, south of Jericho – has now been called state land. He described those as provocative acts.”

Bryant failed to provide listeners with the background to that story about a plot of land located in Area C and hence, according to the Oslo Accords, under full Israeli control.

“The technical move to change the status of the land, which has been farmed for decades by settlers, followed the conclusion of a Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria investigation into the land’s proper legal status under Israeli law. […]

It is also close to the settlements of Vered Yeriho, Almog and Beit Ha’arava and is under the auspices of the Megilot Regional Council. […]

The civil administration said that a decision had been taken by the political echelon for professionals to evaluate the status of the land. “The declaration of state land is in its final stages,” the civil administration said.

There will be a 40-day objection period before such a declaration takes place. Giving the property the status of state land will make it easier for the farmers to use it.”

In conclusion, whilst listeners to this item heard uncritical amplification of the UN Secretary General’s comments, they were not provided with the necessary background which would enable them to assess their validity or the information pertaining to the UN’s record on Israel which would enhance understanding of their context.   

The return of the BBC’s political narrative on Israeli construction

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of January 27th found two reports – one written and one filmed – ostensibly about the Israeli prime minister’s response to remarks made by the UN Secretary General the previous day.UNSG remarks Bryant filmed

The filmed report (made for BBC television news programmes) appears under the title “Netanyahu: ‘United Nations encouraging terrorism’” and it opens with the BBC’s Nick Bryant telling viewers that:

“It’s Israel’s settlement building that’s particularly angered the UN Secretary General and the government’s latest decision to approve plans for over 150 new homes in the West Bank: moves that most of the international community regards as illegal or illegitimate.”

Viewers would therefore quite reasonably conclude that there has been an official announcement from the Israeli authorities concerning “plans for over 150 new homes” but that is not in fact the case.

The source of this story is the political NGO ‘Peace Now’ and an article which appeared in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on January 25th. As the Times of Israel points out:

“There was no official confirmation of the new approvals.”

Nick Bryant nevertheless chose to make that absence of official confirmation disappear from his portrayal of the story.

Bryant goes on to tell viewers:

“Addressing the UN Security Council, Ban Ki Moon demanded a freeze in settlement activity.”

He does not clarify that, according to both the sources of his story, an informal construction freeze has been in place for “almost two years”. The Ha’aretz report opens with the following words:

“Israeli planning authorities approved the construction of 153 new apartments in West Bank settlements last week, effectively putting an end to an informal construction freeze that has lasted about 18 months.

For almost two years now, the government has largely refused to advance new building plans in the territories…”

Bryant’s failure to disclose both that point and the lack of official confirmation for his story is all the more egregious given that via the written report – titled “Netanyahu says UN chief Ban Ki-moon ‘encouraging terror’” – we can deduce that the BBC is in fact well aware of both factors.UNSG remarks written

“Israel has approved the construction of 153 new settler homes in the West Bank, the NGO Peace Now said on Monday.

The move marked the end of an informal construction freeze in the West Bank that lasted for 18 months, Peace Now added.”

That written article materially misleads readers with regard to the reasons for the collapse of negotiations between Israel and the PLO in 2013/4.

“US-backed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014.

The Palestinians complained that Israel was building settlements on land they claim for a future state.”

The link provided leads to a problematic BBC report from January 2014 which, like many of the BBC’s reports on Israeli construction, also promoted political messaging from ‘Peace Now’.

As is well known, the 2013/4 negotiations ultimately failed because the Palestinian Authority chose to form a ‘unity government’ with the terrorist organization Hamas. Even before those negotiations officially ended, the BBC’s portrayal of their collapse was serially inaccurate and fundamentally driven by a specific political narrative. Despite the fact that the agreed conditions for the resumption of negotiations in late July 2013 did not include a freeze on construction, the BBC’s efforts at the time to persuade audiences that negotiations were gravely endangered by Israeli construction plans were intense and even obsessive – but far from accurate or impartial.

BBC audiences have been serially misinformed about the topic of Israeli construction in Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria for years. As has been noted here in the past:

“The prime cause of the inaccurate impression received by audiences on this issue is the fact that the BBC refrains from reporting on actual building and instead focuses its (and its audiences’) attentions on requests for building tenders, even though it is a known fact that a considerable proportion of those tenders do not result in one breeze-block being laid or foundations being dug either because no bids are offered by contractors or bids which are made are too low.

Unsuccessful tenders are sometimes reissued, which often means that the foreign media – including the BBC – report the same tenders more than once. Such was the case, for example, in early April of this year when reissued tenders for 708 housing units in Gilo were reported by the BBC News website no fewer than three times in nine days.

Neither does the BBC overly trouble itself when it comes to reporting where exactly building tenders are located and whether or not they are in areas which, under any realistic scenario, will remain under Israeli control in the event of a peace agreement. Hence audiences remain oblivious of whether or not the plans cited by the BBC have any actual bearing or significance.”

That means that BBC audiences – including the viewers of Nick Bryant’s report – are ill equipped to put statements such as those from Ban Ki Moon amplified in these reports into their appropriate context and to engage in critical thinking on this issue. With Bryant having failed to inform them that construction has been frozen for many months, they will not be asking themselves, for example, why – if Ban’s remarks hold water – that did not prevent the outbreak of the current wave of terrorism against Israelis.  

But of course the BBC has amply displayed over time that it has absolutely no intention of providing its audiences with impartial reporting, context, relevant background or alternative views concerning the topic of Israeli construction in locations in which – according to its adopted narrative – Jews should not reside. Instead, it continues to blinker them by limiting the information provided to that which bolsters one politically motivated narrative alone.  

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BBC cites ‘large increase’ in Israeli building but fails to provide context

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part one

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part two

BBC prefers pageantry to serious discussion of Abbas’ threats on Oslo accords

As might have been anticipated, the BBC did not skimp on its coverage of the hoisting of the Palestinian flag at the United Nations building in New York. Audiences could choose between a filmed report aired on BBC television news programmes and posted on the BBC News website, an audio report (from 14:01 here) by Nick Bryant on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’  and a written article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page – originally under the title “Palestinian flag to be raised at United Nations” and later with the headline “Palestinian flag raised at United Nations headquarters“.Abbas UN

Whilst the subject of Mahmoud Abbas’ speech at the UNGA on the same day was also covered in the latter two reports, that topic was given notably less attention than the pageantry of flag-raising. In the ‘Newshour’ report, presenter Owen Bennett Jones introduced the item with the following words:

“The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says his people can no longer be bound by agreements signed with Israel. Addressing the UN, he accused the Israelis of continually violating what are known as the Oslo Accords going right back to 1993.”

Rather than providing listeners with any background information on the topic of the broader implications of Abbas’ statement, the item then went on to describe the flag-raising ceremony.

The choice of phrasing in the written article did not clarify to readers that Abbas was referring to the Oslo Accords.

“Addressing the UN General Assembly, Mr Abbas said it was unconscionable that the question of Palestinian statehood remained unresolved.

He also warned that the PA no longer felt bound by agreements with Israel he claimed were “continually violated”.”

Moreover, the paragraphs immediately following that materially misled readers by implying that the Oslo Accords include some sort of restrictions on Israeli building in Judea & Samaria and dictate the release of 26 convicted terrorists.

“”As long as Israel refuses to cease settlement activities and to release of the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners in accordance with our agreements, they leave us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to the implementation of these agreements,” Mr Abbas said.

“We therefore declare that we cannot continue to be bound by these agreements and that Israel must assume all of its responsibilities as an occupying power.””

Again, no information was provided to audiences concerning the likely implications of Abbas’ statement that he “cannot continue to be bound” by what has been described as “a contractual framework of obligations between Israel and the Palestinians, signed as witnesses and guarantors by the King of Jordan, the Presidents of the U.S. and Egypt, the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and Norway, the EU and endorsed by the UN”.

Oddly too, the article’s recap of the last 22 years did not include the one factor which did more than anything else to impede the possibility of a negotiated peace agreement: the PA initiated second Intifada.

“Mr Abbas has in the past threatened to dissolve the PA and hand sole responsibility for the West Bank to Israel if there is no chance of a peace deal.

The PA was set up as an interim administration for the major Palestinian cities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after the 1993 Oslo Accord. It was envisaged that a comprehensive treaty would be concluded within five years.

However, more than two decades of talks with Israel have failed to achieve a final peace settlement and an independent Palestinian state. The last round of negotiations collapsed in April 2014.”

At the end of the report readers were told that:

“The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says Palestinians faced with falling living standards and life under Israeli occupation on the West Bank are growing impatient for some sign of progress in their quest for a Palestinian state.

Raising the flag at the UN may not be as effective as raising that issue further up the world’s diplomatic agenda but it is a tangible achievement and it was within Mr Abbas’s power to deliver immediately, our correspondent adds.”

The vast majority of Palestinians have of course lived under the rule of the Palestinian Authority and/or Hamas for the last two decades and whilst Kevin Connolly did not provide a source for his claim of falling living standards, PCBS statistics show that in PA controlled areas, GDP per capita increased by 0.6% in the second quarter of 2015.

As long time readers well know, the BBC generally avoids reporting on internal Palestinian politics and so it is hardly surprising to see that Connolly’s presentation did not make any mention of factors such as the unresolvable rift between the PA and Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas’ own personal unpopularity, the recent Palestinian demonstrations against the PA or the thorny issue of succession.

And so, rather than present audiences with the full range of information which would enable them to understand the factors behind Abbas’ latest move and its potential consequences, the BBC opted to put the focus on symbolic flag-raising. 

BBC displays its campaigning colours in SodaStream story coverage

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of January 31st found no fewer than three different reports on the same subject.

SodaStream on ME pge 31 1

In addition to the written article dated January 30th appearing in the news section, they could view a filmed report in the ‘Watch/Listen’ section. That report by Nick Bryant – titled “Scarlett Johansson quits Oxfam after SodaStream row” – also appeared in the website’s ‘Entertainment & Arts’ section and on BBC television news programmes.

Oxfam filmed

Like the written article, this filmed report makes no attempt to explain to viewers that what lies behind Oxfam’s quoted statement is its alignment with the BDS movement. Once again, viewers are not informed of Oxfam’s history of politically motivated anti-Israel campaigning and are given no insight into the real aims of the BDS campaign. 

The third report on that page – by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly – is located in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section and is titled “Israeli fizzy drinks at centre of settlement boycott row“. It also appeared on the website’s ‘US & Canada’ page. 

Here is Connolly’s explanation of the BDS campaign against SodaStream and in general:

“But suddenly SodaStream – and Ms Johansson – find themselves caught up in the bitter politics of the Middle East, and in particular the calls for a boycott of Israeli businesses that trade on the lands that Israel captured in the war of 1967.

The fizzy drinks machine-maker has a factory in the industrial zone of Maale Adumim – a Jewish settlement built on occupied land to the east of Jerusalem.

Under most interpretations of international law – although not Israel’s – building homes and businesses on such territory is illegal.

Many campaign groups want a ban on goods produced under those circumstances – or at least clear labelling so that consumers in other countries know they are buying things made or grown on Israeli settlements and not in Israel itself.”

That specious portrayal again completely neglects to inform audiences that the end game of the BDS movement (led by its guru Oxfam Connolly artorganization PACBI) is not the dubious labelling of soda making machines or tomatoes based on the postcode and ethnicity of their producers, but the denial of national rights and self-determination to the Jewish people by means of delegitimisation of Israel. Connolly’s description conceals the fact that the BDS movement rejects the existence of Israel as the Jewish state, opposes ‘normalisation’ of relations between Israelis and Palestinians and demands the ‘right of return’ to Israel for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees.

Neither does Connolly make any attempt to inform readers of Oxfam’s record of anti-Israel campaigning or to clarify the charity’s relationships with components of the BDS campaign.

“So far, so familiar, except that Ms Johansson was a brand ambassador for the charity Oxfam (which regards the settlements as illegal and opposes any trade from them) as well as for SodaStream (which has a factory in a settlement). Something had to give.”

Connolly then moves on to promotion of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and an audio clip of a version of the interview with Ameena Saleem of the PSC which was included in his radio report on this story broadcast on the Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme on January 31st is inserted into the written piece. In contrast to the Radio 4 report, Saleem is at least identified as a PSC member in this article, but her defamatory ‘apartheid’ slurs again go unchallenged.

Oxfam Connolly Saleem clip

Another PSC employee – former ‘Mavi Marmara’ passenger Sarah Colborne – is also interviewed:

“As things stand, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign is arguing that the actress has undermined the image she built up as a representative for Oxfam.

The campaign’s director, Sarah Colborne, said: “Scarlett Johansson’s decision to represent SodaStream clearly violated Oxfam’s policy of supporting human rights and justice.

“By choosing to represent a company that operates in an illegal settlement on stolen Palestinian land, she has already suffered major reputational damage. And by prioritising SodaStream over Oxfam, she has decided to profit from occupation, rather than challenge global poverty.” “

Once again in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, Connolly makes no attempt to clarify to audiences what the PSC’s agenda actually is and no explanations are given regarding its connections to Hamas and other terrorist organisations proscribed by the British government.

Towards the end of the article Connolly argues that:

“The boycott movement is important.

Supporters of the Palestinians have hit on a tactic that might encourage ordinary consumers to start differentiating products from the factories and farms of Israel on the one hand and Israeli settlements on the other.”

If that is indeed the case (and it is of course very debatable), then that is all the more important for the BBC to present its audiences with accurate representation of the BDS movement, including clarification of the fact that these supposed “supporters of the Palestinians” actually have a much broader anti-Israel agenda, in order for the corporation to comply with its public purpose remit of building “a global understanding of international issues”.

However, the BBC’s promotion and amplification of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign did not end there. That same clip of Amena Saleem was also featured in another report which appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘US & Canada’ page on January 31st.

Oxfam Saleem clip us canada

Throughout all of its ample coverage of the Scarlett Johansson/ Oxfam story, the BBC has painstakingly focused audience attention on the micro and diligently avoided informing them of the macro: the bigger picture of a supposedly humanitarian charity involved in political campaigning and the context of its affiliated BDS movement’s campaign of delegitimisation to advance the real agenda of the dissolution of a sovereign state.

The BBC’s repeated covert and overt amplification of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s agenda without due regard for editorial guidelines on impartiality contributes to the mainstreaming of an extremist organization with ties to terror groups.

As its coverage of this story shows, the BBC has abandoned its role as a provider of news and information regarding the anti-Israel BDS movement and emphatically tied its colours to the campaigning mast.

Related Articles:

BBC News recycles second-hand SodaStream slur, fails to explain BDS

BBC’s ‘Today’ programme ‘should know better’ than to engage in covert promotion of the PSC’s agenda

BDS: A Smokescreen for Delegitimizing Israel (CAMERA)

BDS, Academic/Cultural Boycott of Israel, and Omar Barghouti (CAMERA)