Weekend long read

1) At Mosaic magazine, Rick Richman takes a look at the significance of the eighty year-old Peel Commission.

“In this epochal year of Zionist anniversaries—the 120th of the First Zionist Conference in Basle, the 100th of the Balfour Declaration, the 70th of the 1947 UN Partition Resolution, the 50th of the Six-Day War—there is yet another to be marked: the 80th anniversary of the 1937 British Peel Commission Report, which first proposed a “two-state solution” for Palestine.

The story of the Peel report is largely unknown today, but it is worth retelling for two reasons:

First, it is a historic saga featuring six extraordinary figures, five of whom testified before the commission: on the Zionist side, David Ben-Gurion, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and Chaim Weizmann, the leaders respectively of the left, right, and center of the Zionist movement; on the Arab side, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem; and on the British side, Winston Churchill, who gave crucial testimony in camera. Louis D. Brandeis, the leading American Zionist, also played a significant role.

Second, and perhaps even more important today, the story helps to explain why, a century after the Balfour Declaration, the Arab-Jewish conflict remains unresolved.”

2) At the Times of Israel, Yaakov Lappin asks “Can Israel live with Fatah-Hamas Unity?“.

“Hamas, isolated and under growing economic pressure, might be willing to hand over the keys to political power in Gaza, and free itself of the draining responsibilities and countless dilemmas that come from ruling over Gaza’s two million people.

This would allow Hamas to focus on its military wing, and on its top priority objective of building up its Gazan terrorist-guerrilla army. Where does all of this leave Israel?”

3) The BESA Center has published a paper by Yaakov Lappin concerning “The Low-Profile War Between Israel and Hezbollah“.

“In defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon war, Hezbollah and its Iranian patron, with the assistance of the Bashar Assad regime, are filling Lebanon with surface to-surface projectiles, and aiming them at population centers and strategic sites in Israel. To forestall this threat, the Israeli defense establishment has, according to media reports, been waging a low-profile military and intelligence campaign, dubbed “The War Between Wars,” which monitors and occasionally disrupts the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah. This campaign has allowed Israel to reportedly exhibit the extent of its intelligence penetration of Hezbollah and the prowess of its precision-guided weaponry, thus boosting its deterrence, but has not weakened Hezbollah’s determination to expand its vast missile and rocket arsenal. It also carries the calculated risk of setting off escalation that could rapidly spin out of control.”

4) Also at the BESA Center, Dr Asaf Romirowsky discusses “How Palestine “Occupies” Itself“.

“A consistent Palestinian strategy for seeking statehood while blaming Israel for its absence has been codified through the narrative of “occupation.” The anniversary of the 1967 war brought this to the forefront in endless accusations regarding the Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank. There is even an assertion that Gaza is still “occupied.”

Occupation is a Palestinian tool to avoid negotiations, since “no tactical brilliance in negotiations, no amount of expert preparation, no perfect alignment of the stars can overcome that obstacle.” Nor is progress in Palestinian economics, institution-building, or civil society possible, because –  as Nabeel Kassis, Palestinian Minister for Finance, put it – “Development under occupation is a charade.” Even the Palestinian Authority’s own repression and crackdown on freedom of the press is, according to Hanan Ashrawi, caused “of course [by] the Israeli occupation.” And despite the palpable underdevelopment of Palestinian institutions and civil society, Europe must keep funding them, since “Preparedness for several possible scenarios with a long-term focus on functioning institutions is what is required from the EU and other donors in Palestine.””

 

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A terrorist defies the BBC’s narrative

Over the past two years visitors to the BBC News website have repeatedly read the following statement in reports usually – but not exclusively – concerning terror attacks:

“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

Examples of such messaging in reports from the last few months alone include:

Israeli policewoman stabbed to death in Jerusalem June 16th 2017

Israeli police killed in attack near Jerusalem holy site July 14th 2017

Three Israelis stabbed to death in West Bank attack July 21st 2017

Palestinian gunman kills three Israelis in West Bank  September 26th 2017

Interpol approves Palestinian membership despite Israeli opposition  September 27th 2017

That narrative complies with ‘media guidance’ put out by the PLO in November 2015.

In addition to the fact that the BBC has made very little effort to explain to its audiences why Israeli officials cite Palestinian incitement as a factor underpinning the violence, it has also serially avoided the issue of the religious motivations behind some such attacks.

This week the Hamas affiliated perpetrator of an attack that took place three and a half years ago was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment.

“Ziad Awad, the terrorist who was convicted of murdering Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrahi and wounding his wife Hadas in April 2014, was sentenced to two life sentences on Monday.

The presiding judge also took into account that Awad had carried out the attack despite being one of the terrorists released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal.

Baruch Mizrahi was killed on the eve of Passover while driving with his wife Hadas and five children to the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, to take part in the Passover Seder (feast).

Awad, who is a resident of the Palestinian West Bank town of Idhna, opened fire on the vehicle, killing Baruch, seriously injuring Hadas and lightly wounding one of their children.”

The BBC initially reported that attack in a belated thirty-four word paragraph and subsequent reporting failed to clarify that the incident was a terror attack. The terrorist’s arrest and indictment did not receive any BBC coverage and so audiences did not receive any information concerning the motive behind the murder.

“Before launching the attack, Awad confided in his son that he had religious motivation, saying that, “according to Islam, whoever kills a Jew goes to heaven.””

Such cases do not of course fit into the BBC’s chosen narrative of Palestinian terrorism caused by “frustration” at “decades of Israeli occupation” and audiences therefore do not get to hear about them.

 

Disputed or occupied? Documenting the BBC’s continuing double standards

In December 2015 and again in March 2016 we documented the differences in the terminology used by the BBC in coverage of stories concerning Western Sahara and stories concerning Judea & Samaria, parts of Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

On June 1st the BBC News website published an article – “Western Sahara: Polisario Front leader Abdelaziz dies” – in which the corporation’s double standards were once again on display. [emphasis added]W Sahara art 2

“Mohamed Abdelaziz, 68, was secretary-general of the Polisario Front, which fights for an end to Moroccan rule in Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony annexed by Rabat in 1975. […]

Morocco considers Western Sahara to be its “southern provinces”, but Algeria and other countries recognise the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) declared by the Polisario Front in 1976. […]

The Moroccan government has proposed wide-ranging autonomy for the region, but the Polisario Front wants self-determination through a referendum for the local population, as called for in UN resolutions.

In April Morocco expelled 84 UN civilian staff after after [sic] UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon referred to Morocco’s rule over Western Sahara as “occupation” during a visit to refugee camps in Tindouf.

The same month, senior Polisario Front member Bachir Mustafa Sayed warned of possible war over the disputed territory if the UN failed to set a timetable for a referendum on self-determination.”

The BBC’s presentation of Western Sahara as “disputed territory” contrasts markedly with its inevitable – and stipulated – portrayal of Judea & Samaria, parts of Jerusalem and even the Gaza Strip as “occupied”. As long as that inconsistency in terminology exists, the corporation cannot be surprised that its impartiality is called into question.

Related Articles:

BBC double standards on disputed territories

Another example of BBC double standards on disputed territories

Not all ‘occupied territories’ are equal for the BBC

BBC approved terminology meets reality and the result is audience confusion

 

Arrest of terror cell highlights BBC News’ faulty framing

On May 29th the Israeli Security Agency announced the arrests of members of a Hamas cell from the Bethlehem district in connection with the terror attack on a Jerusalem city bus the previous month in which 19 passengers were injured.

“Members of the cell, who also planned to carry out an additional car bombing and shooting attacks, were arrested in recent weeks in a joint Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), IDF and Israel Police operation. According to the Shin Bet, the cell had accumulated additional explosive materials and weapons for the planned attacks.”

That terror attack was the only one covered by the BBC during the month of April.  In addition to the initial report, a follow-up article was published three days later when Hamas announced that the bomber was one of its members. In early May, two reports (written and filmed) by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen featured interviews with the mother of the bus bomber.Bowen art 4 5

In his written report Bowen quoted the terrorists’ mother as follows, after having noted that her son’s attack was claimed by Hamas:

“But said she was proud that her son had chosen what she called “the resistance”.

“Not just Abed [Abdul], I think all the people here now prefer the resistance. Because for them peace is a hopeless case.””

However, he went on to tell BBC audiences that:

“… hundreds of conversations with Palestinians over many years here have convinced me that the biggest factor that shapes their attitudes to Israel is not the incitement to hate but the occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, that started after Israel’s victory in the 1967 Middle East war.

When Palestinians who agitate against Israel find an audience, it is because of the way that the occupation, which is inherently violent, has overshadowed and controlled Palestinian lives for almost 50 years.

The issues here do not change much. Two peoples have been fighting for generations about one piece of land. That is still the core of the conflict.”

That messaging is consistent with the BBC’s usual framing of terrorism against Israelis as being ‘explained’ by the outcome of the Six Day War. The implication is of course that if there were no “occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem”, there would be no conflict and no terror.

The flaw in that framing – at least for members of the BBC’s audience hoping to enhance their understanding of the topic – is that the terrorist organisation to which the suspected planners and the perpetrator of the April 18th bus bombing belong does not share Jeremy Bowen’s view that the events of June 1967 are the root of all problems.

Hamas (along with additional terror organisations) makes it amply clear in both words and actions that Israeli disengagement from land taken in a defensive war against Arab countries (which previously occupied the same territory themselves) does bring about an end to terror and conflict because for them – as currently noted in the corporation’s profile of Hamas – the whole of Israel is ‘occupied’.

“Hamas’s charter defines historic Palestine – including present-day Israel – as Islamic land and it rules out any permanent peace with the Jewish state.”

The BBC rarely – if ever – produces any follow-up reporting on the subject of arrests of terrorists’ co-conspirators or the subsequent trials of terrorists arrested during or after the act and audiences are hence deprived of information concerning the motives and affiliations of Palestinian terrorists. But at the same time as it continues to avoid any serious reporting on the topic of the ideology and aims behind Hamas terrorism such as the April 18th bus bombing in Jerusalem, the corporation – and in particular the man charged with providing “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” – repeatedly and exclusively frames the story in terms of “the occupation”.

That, of course, is political activism rather than journalism. 

Another example of BBC double standards on disputed territories

The double standards employed by the BBC in its reporting on disputed territories have been noted here before in relation to Cyprus and Western Sahara.  The latter region was recently in the news again and on March 17th the BBC News website produced an article titled “Western Sahara: Morocco threat over UN peacekeepers” which displays an interesting choice of language.W Sahara art

“Morocco has threatened to pull its soldiers out of UN global peacekeeping missions in a row over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

It is furious with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after he used the term “occupation” about the territory, which was annexed by Morocco in 1975.” [emphasis added]

Later on in the article readers were told that:

“Morocco annexed most of the disputed former Spanish colony in 1976.” [emphasis added]

In contrast to its reporting on Israel which – in line with the directives of the BBC’s dedicated style guide – is inevitably peppered with phrases such as ‘occupied’ or ‘illegal under international law’, this article uses the much more politically neutral term “disputed” which is also how the region is described in the corporation’s general style guide.

W Sahara style guide

The BBC is far from the only media organization to use differing terminology depending on who is contesting a region, as our colleagues at CAMERA have documented. Nevertheless, as long as the BBC continues to employ such blatant double standards, it should not be surprised that its supposed impartiality is called into question. 

BBC double standards on disputed territories

At the beginning of November the BBC World Service produced two items concerning a decades-old conflict involving an invasion, disputed territory, thousands of people living in refugee camps and more than twenty years of failed negotiations.Witness W sahara audio

However, BBC audiences did not hear the words ‘occupied’ or ‘illegal under international law’ as they so frequently do in content relating to Israel. In fact, what they did hear in those two programmes was a nostalgic and sympathetic portrayal of Morocco’s ‘Green March’ into Western Sahara in 1975.

The audio version of that episode of ‘Witness’ uses the term “disputed territory” in its synopsis.

“In November 1975, King Hassan the Second ordered hundreds of thousands of Moroccans to march into disputed territory in the desert. He wanted to claim the colony of Spanish Sahara for Morocco. The Green March led to a diplomatic victory for the King, but sparked a guerrilla war and decades of instability in the region. Witness speaks to a Moroccan who was on the march.”

The synopsis to the filmed version of the same programme uses the same term.Witness W Sahara filmed

“Forty years ago, the King of Morocco ordered hundreds of thousands of Moroccans to march into the Sahara desert to claim an area of disputed territory from Spain. The Green March, as it became known, was instigated in part to boost King Hassan the Second’s faltering support at home and sparked a long guerrilla war.
Moroccan TV journalist, Seddik Maaninou, was on the march and spoke to Witness about a turning point in North African history.”

The BBC Academy’s style guide entry for Western Sahara describes it as “[d]isputed territory administered by Morocco” and readers will not find terms such as ‘occupied’ or ‘international law’ in the corporation’s profile of Western Sahara.

 

 

BBC approved terminology meets reality and the result is audience confusion

The BBC News website’s reporting ahead of the formation of the new Palestinian unity government on June 2nd has highlighted an interesting case of incompatibility between politically motivated BBC approved terminology and reality.

On May 29th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Abbas asks PM Rami Hamdallah to head Fatah-Hamas unity cabinet“. There, BBC audiences were informed that:

“Fatah governs in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank while Hamas – which has refused to recognise Israel – holds sway in the Gaza Strip.”

That statement was repeated an additional article titled “Israel PM warns against Hamas-Fatah ‘terror’ cabinet” which also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 1st.unity gov cabinet

Whilst Fatah is indeed the dominant party in the Palestinian National Authority and the PA’s current president (albeit lacking an elected mandate since 2009) belongs to that party, it is the latter which was established under the terms of the Oslo Accords as an interim self-government body rather than Fatah and hence the BBC’s statement is inaccurate.

The Palestinian National Authority does indeed govern Areas A and B (with the mutually agreed exception of security control in the latter) in accordance with the terms of the Oslo Accords, running its own government, judiciary and security forces. It runs its own finances, makes its own laws and collects taxes. It issues passports, conducts foreign relations and provides services such as healthcare and education to the people living under its jurisdiction.

And yet despite the fact that – pursuant to the terms of agreements signed between Israel and the PLO – the PA governs the areas in which the vast majority of Palestinians live, the BBC still describes the entire region as “the Israeli-occupied West Bank” whilst at the same time acknowledging the reality of PA governance.

Clearly, such ‘have your cake and eat it’ terminology is misleading and confusing to BBC audiences. Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations states that:

“Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.”

But in Areas A and B, the PA’s authority has – by mutual agreement between Israel and the PLO – been established and is exercised in place of that of the Israeli army and in Area C the current situation of Israeli civil administration is also the fruit of those mutual agreements, with some commentators holding the view that this fact negates the use of the term ‘occupation’.

Obviously the BBC cannot ignore the fact that the Palestinian National Authority has been in existence for twenty years and that the vast majority of Palestinians outside the Gaza Strip live under its governance. Nevertheless, it continues the bizarre practice of describing regions it rightly describes as governed by the PA as being simultaneously “Israeli-occupied”.  

The political motivations behind that practice are all too apparent, but no less grave than the clear breach of impartiality it demonstrates, this incongruous policy is particularly pernicious because its use of dumbed-down political sloganeering actually prevents BBC audiences from understanding the realities of the situation on the ground in contradiction of the corporation’s public purposes remit which obliges it to “build a global understanding on international issues”.  

Related Articles:

Soft BBC portrait of new PA prime minister

BBC reporting on the Hamdallah resignation

New BBC style guide on ‘Israel and the Palestinians’