BBC’s Guerin gratuitously inserts ‘occupation’ into Holocaust remembrance coverage

h/t GB

On the evening of January 22nd BBC audiences were presented with audio and filmed versions of a report by the corporation’s Istanbul based international correspondent Orla Guerin about an Israeli Holocaust survivor.

Listeners to BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’ and those tuning in to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ heard an audio version of Guerin’s report (from 18:13 here and from 20:38 here) in which her usual commitment to accuracy was on display:

Guerin: “Rina takes us to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial centre: a sprawling compound hewn out of stone.” [emphasis added]

Yad Vashem was of course constructed using concrete.

However it was the filmed version of Guerin’s report – aired on BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’ and available here – which caused offence to many viewers. Towards the end of that report Guerin told audiences:

Guerin: “In Yad Vashem’s Hall of Names, images of the dead. Young soldiers troop in to share the binding tragedy of the Jewish people. The State of Israel is now a regional power. For decades it has occupied Palestinian territories. But some here will always see their nation through the prism of persecution and survival.” [emphasis added]

Given Orla Guerin’s long record of problematic Israel-related reporting one might wonder about the degree of judgement behind the BBC’s decision to send her to cover such a sensitive subject as Holocaust remembrance.

However, when one considers that by the time Guerin’s filmed report went on air, visitors to the BBC News website had already seen the gratuitous shoehorning of a context free reference to ‘occupation’ into an article ostensibly about the World Holocaust Forum event in Jerusalem, those editorial considerations perhaps become clearer.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bateman shoehorns ‘occupation’ into Holocaust remembrance report

BBC’s Bateman shoehorns ‘occupation’ into Holocaust remembrance report

January 22nd saw the appearance of an article titled ‘Holocaust row bubbles as leaders gather in Israel’ in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

Written by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman, the article’s main theme is what he describes as “a row about the distortion of history by rival nationalist leaders in Europe”.

Referring to the Polish president, Bateman tells readers that:

“Mr Duda has said he will not attend this week’s Holocaust remembrance ceremony at Yad Vashem, the official memorial centre in Jerusalem. […]

Mr Duda complained that he has not been allowed to address the audience, whereas Mr Putin and other leaders will speak.”

He goes on to claim that what he again describes as “the row” over speaking arrangements at the Jerusalem event “has aggravated a bitter dispute between Russia and Poland – whose leaders have been armflexing over the war’s legacy”.

Bateman gives an overview of that Russian and Polish “armflexing” – which of course has been going on independently of the Jerusalem conference and which, as the BBC has itself reported, has its roots in a European Parliament resolution dating from last September.

He then moves on to the topic of the Polish legislation of 2018:

“Two years ago the Polish government made it illegal to say that the country was complicit in Nazi crimes during the Holocaust.

After an international outcry it later deleted parts of the law, but the controversy then engulfed Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He supported the partial u-turn by signing a joint statement with the Polish prime minister.

That move was condemned by Yad Vashem who said the statement contained “grave errors and deceptions” and harmed the “historical memory of the Holocaust”.

Mr Netanyahu defended his move saying he had consulted Yad Vashem’s chief historian.”

Bateman’s literal ‘bottom line’ to a story ostensibly about Russian and Polish polemics relating to World War Two and the Holocaust comes in a section sub-headed ‘Betrayal of the Holocaust’. There he manages to reframe the story by uncritically quoting a contributor whose highly relevant political opinions are not revealed to BBC audiences – in clear breach of BBC editorial guidelines relating to “Contributors’ Affiliations”.

“But among his [Netanyahu’s] critics was the Israeli historian Prof Zeev Sternhell, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust in Poland who escaped the Warsaw Ghetto as a child with the help of two Polish families.

He accuses Mr Netanyahu of embracing ultra-nationalists in Europe because they provide a counterweight to the EU’s “liberal wing” of France and Germany who are critical of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

“In order to get that alliance working he’s ready to pay a heavy price… And the heavy price is a betrayal of the Holocaust,” he says.” [emphasis added]

Significantly, Bateman did not bother to remind readers of more recent events which can hardly be described as “embracing” the Polish stance.

Neither did he offer readers any contrasting view to the predictably controversial claim from Professor Sternhell that Israel’s prime minister is ‘betraying’ the Holocaust in order to counter criticism of “Israel’s occupation” and apparently neither did he offer the right of reply to that allegation. 

Related Articles:

BBC News turns media blunder into story about Israeli PM’s ‘comment’

BBC News website omits key information in Polish Holocaust law report

 

BBC double standards on disputed territory in evidence again

An article published on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ page on February 13th under the title “Debt misery hits students as dream turns sour in northern Cyprus” provides another example of a double standard in BBC reporting which has been documented here in the past.

Readers saw the location at the centre of the article described as follows:

“…Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, a self-declared republic recognised only by Turkey.” 

“Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the north, in response to a military coup backed by nationalists ruling Greece at the time.

Since declaring independence in 1983, the north has been under international embargo, so it is propped up by Turkey and its currency, the lira.”

“…northern Cyprus is not recognised internationally…”

Readers were also provided with a map:

As has been the case in past BBC reporting on Cyprus (see ‘related articles’ below), the words ‘occupied’ and ‘occupation’ did not appear at all in the report: readers were merely told that northern Cyprus is “Turkish-controlled”. As usual there was no reference in the report to “illegal settlements” or “international law” despite the fact that it was Turkish state policy to facilitate and encourage the immigration of Turkish nationals to the island during the latter half of the 1970s.

In contrast to BBC coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, readers did not find any pronouncements allocating disputed territory to one side or the other in the style of the frequently seen terminology “occupied Palestinian land” and “Palestinian territory” and no mention was made of the presence of Turkish troops in northern Cyprus.

As we have seen in the past, the BBC is able to report on the enduring territorial dispute in Cyprus in a manner which refrains from promoting a particular political narrative. Unfortunately for the corporation’s audiences the same editorial standards are not evident in BBC reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Related Articles:

Not all ‘occupied territories’ are equal for the BBC

When the BBC News website reported an enduring conflict without a narrative

BBC News website framing of the Airbnb listings story

Late on November 19th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Airbnb removes Israeli West Bank listings” which was soon re-titled “Airbnb removes Israeli West Bank settlement listings”.

One hundred and twenty-three of the article’s 422 words summarised the announcement put out by the company while 129 words described subsequent reactions from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat, the Israeli tourism minister and a relevant Israeli organisation.

One hundred and fourteen words were given over to background information, including the BBC’s standard partisan mantra concerning ‘international law’:

“The West Bank settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Readers were also told that:

“The issue of settlements is one of the most contentious areas of dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.

The Palestinians see them as a major obstacle to peace and a barrier to a hoped-for Palestinian state on land which they occupy.

Israel says such an argument is a pretext for avoiding direct peace talks, and that the fate of settlements should be negotiated in accordance with peace accords signed with the Palestinians in 1993.”

Notably, despite having quoted Airbnb as saying that “…many in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced”, the BBC did not find it relevant to tell its audiences about the people displaced from places such as the Gush Etzion communities, Beit HaArava or the Old City of Jerusalem just nineteen years before its selected start-date for Middle East history.

Without clarification of the fact that a PLO representative has in the past threatened legal action against Airbnb, readers were told that:

“Airbnb has previously been criticised by Palestinian officials and human rights campaigners for allowing listings of homes to rent in Israeli settlements.”

While those so-called “human rights campaigners” remained unidentified by the BBC, readers were not informed that Airbnb does business in numerous other disputed locations (for example northern Cyprus, Western Sahara) or whether or not those same campaigners have “criticised” those operations.

Unsurprisingly, the BBC found it appropriate to cite one of its most frequently quoted and promoted political NGOs – including images.

“The decision was announced the day before Human Rights Watch was set to publish a report examining Airbnb’s business in the settlements.

The organisation praised Airbnb’s decision on Twitter, hailing it as “a breakthrough”.”

The BBC did not bother to clarify to its audiences that the said ‘report’ produced by the political NGOs ‘Human Rights Watch’ and ‘Kerem Navot’ is actually a political campaign focusing exclusively on Jewish Israelis which makes no mention whatsoever of Airbnb’s business in additional disputed locations around the world.

Related Articles:

The NGOs and Funders Behind Airbnb’s BDS Policy (NGO Monitor)

BBC One’s ‘Sunday Morning Live’ erases a third of the royal visit

h/t TG, MF

BBC One has a programme called ‘Sunday Morning Live’ – currently presented by Sean Fletcher and Cherry Healey – which purports to provide BBC audiences with “thought provoking discussions of ethical questions of the week“.

The July 1stedition of that programme (available in the UK here) included a papers review together with guests presented by Fletcher as “journalist and writer Christina Patterson and comedian Aatif Nawaz“.

Sean Fletcher began by erasing one-third of the itinerary of the recent royal visit to Jordan, Israel and territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Fletcher: “And this week in – well – his biggest diplomatic test, Prince William became the first member of the royal family to make an official visit to the Palestinian territories. The Duke of Cambridge, who started his Middle East trip in Jordan, toured a market in Ramallah and spent a moment in quiet prayer at the holy Wailing Wall [sic] in Jerusalem’s Old City.”

Healey: “Christina – such a sensitive issue: how do you think he did?”

Patterson: “I thought he did amazingly well I must say. People tend to speak about Prince William as if he’s, you know, nice bloke, not Einstein, ehm…and, you know, that may be true but I have to say this is a diplomatic minefield and he was clearly very, very carefully briefed. But he didn’t put a foot wrong and he managed to win both sides over.”

Viewers then saw the journalist Patterson – who, as a person on record as claiming that Israelis “raze homes and build new ones on someone else’s land” and “destroy their neighbours’ crops and treat them like criminals” may not have been the most objective commentator on Israel related topics that the BBC could have come up with – make the following pseudo-legal pronouncement:

Patterson: “I think one or two people have said oh, he shouldn’t have talked about the occupied territories. Well they are the occupied territories – that was just factually and legally accurate.”

With the programme’s presenters making no effort to inform audiences of the existence of alternative legal views concerning an issue on which Patterson is clearly not qualified to tell viewers what is “accurate” or not, she went on to potentially confuse them with a reference to the president of a country that they had not been told was included in the visit.

Patterson: “But really, to have got the Israeli president and the Palestinian president and all those people in all those different factions on his side [sic] was an astonishing achievement. And it was also very touching to see how he related to people and I think in particular he was profoundly moved by the plight of the Palestinians and I think, you know, good on him. He really brought quite…something quite tricky off.”

Fletcher then went on to refer to an article in the Sunday Mirror.

Fletcher: “Yeah, Aatif: the front of the Sunday Mirror – ‘Wills: Middle East peace is my life mission’ so according to the Mirror. That, I mean, that’s a tall order. In terms of religious and political tightropes, this is as high as they get, isn’t it?”

Nawaz: “Well I like that he’s up for the challenge, you know, because it is very challenging. You see a lot of heads of state and, you know, people in positions of influence or privilege avoid these situ…or avoid talking about the Middle East or avoid talking about the conflict or the two-state solution or whatever it is that’s brought up about it. But he’s going for it and I really like that because, you know, there’s this perception about the royal family – sometimes they’re very passive and they don’t play a role or they certainly want to avoid talking about anything controversial and it’s a very ceremonial thing. Whereas this is like a really noble, admirable aim for his [unintelligible]. He’ll win a lot of supporters in the Muslim community for acknowledging the occupied Palestinian territories and Palestine and the life of the Palestinians. So I think it’s great and if he could…listen, I’m backing it.  What can I do to help, prince? You tell me ‘cos that’s like let’s bring peace to the Middle East.”

That identity politics dog-whistle closed what apparently passes for “thought-provoking discussion” at BBC One.

Resources:

Contact ‘Sunday Morning Live’

 

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.””

 

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.