Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2020

Throughout the month of January 2020, twenty-eight written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, three of which were carried over from the previous month and some of which also appeared on other pages.

(dates in brackets indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

One report concerned external security issues:

Qasem Soleimani: ‘Trump deserves all the credit’ – Netanyahu (3/1/20 to 6/1/20)

Eleven items related to the US Administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposal (discussed here):

Trump’s Middle East peace plan: ‘Deal of the century’ is huge gamble Jeremy Bowen (27/1/20 to 7/2/20)

Netanyahu: Trump Middle East peace plan ‘deal of the century’  (28/1/20 to present)

Trump outlines Middle East peace plan (28/1/20 to present)

Abbas on Trump peace plan: ‘Conspiracy deal won’t pass’ (28/1/20 to present)

Trump releases long-awaited Middle-East peace plan (28/1/20 to 29/1/20)

Trump’s Middle East peace plan: Smiles and sorrow on the ground Tom Bateman (28/1/20 to present) discussed here

What does Trump’s Middle East plan say on key issues?  (29/1/20 to 10/2/20)

Trump Middle East plan: What he gets out of it  Aleem Maqbool (29/1/20 to present)

Why Trump’s Middle East plan is so divisive  Jeremy Bowen (29/1/20 to 3/2/20 and 7/2/20 to present)

Trump Middle East plan: Palestinians reject ‘conspiracy’ (29/1/20 to 3/2/20)

Palestinian PM defends stance on Trump Middle East plan Orla Guerin (30/1/20 to 3/2/20)

Six items related to a ceremony held in Jerusalem to mark the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Holocaust row seethes as leaders gather in Israel Tom Bateman (22/1/20 to 29/1/20) discussed here

Macron orders Israeli security to ‘go outside’ at Jerusalem church (24/1/20 to 28/1/20)

‘Go outside’: France’s Macron berates Israeli police at Jerusalem church (23/1/20 to 24/1/20) discussed here

Yad Vashem: Why Poland won’t be attending Holocaust memorial (23/1/20 to 24/1/20)

Holocaust forum: Netanyahu urges world to unite to confront Iran (23/1/20 to 28/1/20) discussed here

Prince Charles visits grandmother’s tomb on Jerusalem visit (24/1/20 to 25/1/20)

While no reporting on internal Palestinian affairs was published in January, audiences did find a report carried over from the BBC’s Christmas coverage and an interactive feature relating to archaeology in the Gaza Strip.

The Christians helping Bethlehem shepherd families give birth safely (25/12/19 to 3/1/20) discussed here

Treasure Hunters (24/1/20 to 25/1/20)

Of the eight items relating to internal Israeli internal affairs, seven reports concerned legal/criminal cases, of which two related to a case in Cyprus in which Israelis had been released without charge in July 2019, yet the BBC continues to publish reports on the website’s ‘Middle East’ page:

Ayia Napa: Foreign Office ‘concerned’ over Briton found guilty over rape claim (31/12/19 to 2/1/20 and 4/1/20)

Ayia Napa Briton sentenced over false rape claim (7/1/20 to 9/1/20)

Benjamin Netanyahu asks for immunity from prosecution (1/1/20 to 7/1/20 and 9/1/20)

Israel releases two Syrian prisoners in ‘goodwill gesture’ (10/1/20 to 12/1/20)

Jerusalem rabbi arrested for ‘holding women in slavery’ (13/1/20 to 14/1/20)

Netanyahu indicted in court on corruption charges after dropping immunity bid (28/1/20 to 30/1/20)

Naama Issachar: US-Israeli woman released from Russian prison (29/1/20 to 1/2/20)

One report concerned social issues:

How Beitar Jerusalem’s football club owner took on racism and won Alex Capstick (20/12/19 to 1/1/20) discussed here

As noted above, the BBC News website did not produce any reporting on internal Palestinian affairs throughout January and neither did it produce any coverage of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis. As we see, almost 40% of the reporting appearing on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page throughout January concerned the US administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposal.

Related Articles:

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

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of Palestinian affairs in 2019

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2020

 

 

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

Last week we looked at the impartiality of BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio coverage of the US Administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan.

A review of the impartiality of BBC radio coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

But did visitors to the BBC News website fare any better?

Below is a summary of the relevant content published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page between January 27th and January 30th – eleven items in all.

Many of the reports promote talking points also evident (including before anyone at the BBC had actually read the proposal) in BBC radio and television coverage:

  • Description of the proposal as a “surrender document” for the Palestinians which does not meet their demands.
  • Presentation of the document as fully meeting Israeli demands.
  • Presentation of the timing of the launch of the document as being related to political and legal processes in the US and Israel.
  • Amplification of the talking points of the PLO and political NGOs, including the ‘apartheid’ trope.
  • Portrayal of the Palestinians as having no agency and predictions of ‘inevitable’ violence.

January 27th:

Trump’s Middle East peace plan: ‘Deal of the century’ is huge gamble by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. Although now dated January 29th, the article was originally published on January 27th – the day before the US proposal was launched – as part of the BBC’s cross-platform preemptive framing of the story.

“…the Trump plan gives Mr Netanyahu all he wants – and offers Palestinians very little; a sort-of state that will be truncated, without proper sovereignty, surrounded by Israel’s territory and threaded between Jewish settlements.”

“Israel argues the Palestinians turned down a series of good offers. The Palestinian negotiators say they made huge concessions, not least accepting Israel’s existence in around 78% of their historic homeland.”

“The timing of the announcement of the Trump initiative suits the political and legal needs of Mr Trump and Mr Netanyahu. Both men face elections. As well as that, Mr Trump gets a distraction from his impeachment, and from his trial in the US Senate for high crimes and misdemeanours. Mr Netanyahu faces criminal charges of corruption, bribery and breach of trust.”

“Essentially the Palestinians have been told to take it or leave it. They are being given a surrender document, told to accept that Israel has won, and with its American friends will shape the future. If Palestinians refuse, the message continues, Israel will still get what it wants and they will be even worse off.”

“There is a chance Palestinians will be afflicted by more anger, despair and hopelessness. In a combustible part of the world, that is dangerous. The Trump plan is a gamble.”

January 28th:

Netanyahu: Trump Middle East peace plan ‘deal of the century’  (video without commentary)

Trump outlines Middle East peace plan  (video without commentary)

Abbas on Trump peace plan: ‘Conspiracy deal won’t pass’  (video without commentary)

Trump releases long-awaited Middle-East peace plan  with analysis from Jonathan Marcus and a link to the website of a political NGO which engages in ‘lawfare’ against Israel.

“…his [Trump’s] “take it or leave it offer” will appal many long-standing students of the region. The question now is not so much what benefit this deal might bring but how much damage it may do by over-turning Palestinian aspirations.”

“Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said the proposals envisaged a form of apartheid.

It said Palestinians would be relegated “to small, enclosed, isolated enclaves, with no control over their lives”.

Israel’s Peace Now organisation said the plan was “as detached from reality as it is eye-catching”.

“The plan’s green light for Israel to annex the settlements in exchange for a perforated Palestinian state is unviable and would not bring stability,” it said.”

Trump’s Middle East peace plan: Smiles and sorrow on the ground Tom Bateman discussed

“The Trump document says applying Israeli sovereignty to the settlements would be compensated by land swaps to Palestinians. It would also recognise Israeli sovereignty over the strategically important Jordan Valley, a key swathe of land in the West Bank important for agriculture running along the border with neighbouring Jordan. […]

But Palestinians say the move will entrench apartheid.”

January 29th:

What does Trump’s Middle East plan say on key issues? Backgrounder

“The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) said the US plan “recognises Israel’s illegal colonisation and annexation of occupied lands belonging to the State of Palestine”, while Israeli human rights group B’Tselem warned that Palestinians would be “relegated to small, enclosed, isolated enclaves, with no control over their lives”.”

Trump Middle East plan: What he gets out of it  Aleem Maqbool

“Israeli opposition figures have not shied away from suggesting that the timing of the proposal’s release was aimed at helping Benjamin Netanyahu in a general election to be held on 2 March.”

“The impeachment allegations [against Trump] suggest sordid and dishonourable use of his powerful position for personal political gain; withholding hundreds of millions of dollars of military assistance to Ukraine until Kiev opened investigations into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Mr Trump might hope the unveiling of his proposal would offer Americans a contrasting narrative of his skills as a statesman, delivering “the deal of the century”.”

“There are also Evangelicals within the Trump administration itself, like Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have reportedly been pushing for the kind of support for Israel’s expansionist aspirations as detailed in the new plan.

Those aspirations all but do away with the notion of having sovereign Palestinian and Israeli states existing side by side, as previous US administrations had said they wanted.

Evangelical Christians were huge financial backers of the Trump campaign in 2016, but there were others who would have wanted to see some return on the support they gave during the last election reflected in this proposal.

Aipac, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, has already endorsed Mr Trump’s Middle East plan, saying it appreciated the efforts of the president.”

“Whether the plan and the timing of its release is about backing Mr Netanyahu, distracting from impeachment troubles, playing domestic politics or if it is indeed driven by ideology, it comes with huge risks.

It can be seen as a proposal that gives Israel the authorisation to broaden its occupation, already a source of misery for so many. The fear is that a proposal that gives Palestinians so little hope is one that also strengthens hard-liners across the region.”

Why Trump’s Middle East plan is so divisive  Jeremy Bowen (video with commentary)

“The BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen explains why the proposal is so divisive.”

Trump Middle East plan: Palestinians reject ‘conspiracy’

“Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Trump administration had simply “copied and pasted” the steps that Mr Netanyahu wanted to see implemented.

“It’s about annexation, it’s about apartheid,” he said. “Moving to the de jure annexation of settlements is something that was given the green light yesterday.””

January 30th:

Palestinian PM defends stance on Trump Middle East plan Orla Guerin interview with Mohammad Shtayyeh (video)

As we see the BBC elected to interview the Palestinian Authority prime minister but not any senior Israeli official. The BBC chose to showcase political NGOs and a PLO official promoting the baseless ‘apartheid’ trope but did not provide an alternative viewpoint. The reports written by the BBC staff presented a disturbingly uniform negative view of the topic and audiences were not provided with a balanced “range of views”.

The purpose of the editorial guidelines is of course to enable the BBC to meet its public purpose obligations, including the provision of “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of […] the wider world”. It is once again abundantly obvious that BBC journalists were far more intent on establishing a specific narrative than they were committed to providing accurate and impartial news reports offering a “wide range of significant views”. 

Related Articles:

Snark and speculation on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’

BBC’s Tom Bateman misleads on the Oslo Accords

BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ viewers misled on 1949 Armistice lines

The BBC’s Middle East editor’s framing of the US peace plan

Inadequately presented interviewees and an anonymous quote in BBC One Guerin report

BBC Radio 4’s preemptive framing of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

BBC’s ‘Newshour’ serves up ‘rumours and leaks’ with one-sided analysis

BBC Radio 4 news implies previous existence of Palestinian state in US plan report

BBC radio interviews same PA representative three times in one day

BBC WS radio promotes US peace plan commentary from partisan lobbying group

A review of the impartiality of BBC radio coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

 

Inadequately presented interviewees and an anonymous quote in BBC One Guerin report

Following on from Jeremy Bowen’s report on the US administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan, viewers of BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’ on January 28th were presented with a report by Orla Guerin which was introduced by presenter Huw Edwards as follows:

Edwards: “At least ten Palestinians have been injured in clashes with Israeli forces amid protests against the plan that’s been unveiled in Washington. The demonstrations in the Israeli occupied West Bank came as the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said that his response to the Trump deal was ‘a thousand times no’. Our international correspondent Orla Guerin has spent the day in the West Bank gauging Palestinian opinions on the plan.”

Edwards did not bother to clarify that those opinions were given – and formed – before the details of the plan had even been made public. Guerin began her report at a crossing between Palestinian Authority controlled areas and Israel.

Guerin: “Bethlehem before sunrise. Palestinians rushing to a day’s work in Israel; those lucky enough to have permits. Movement is tightly controlled. That’s life under Israeli occupation. And few here today were expecting a new dawn from the White House.”

“Luck” of course has nothing to do with those work permits. Security considerations and the applicant’s absence of links to terrorism do. Guerin of course made no effort to inform viewers that between 1967 and the year 2000 there were no restrictions on movement and that such measures were only introduced after the Palestinians chose to launch the terror war known as the second Intifada.

She went on with a vox pop interview:

Guerin: “Do you have any hope for the peace plan from Donald Trump? No, no, no says Ibrahim, a father of seven. They don’t want to give the Palestinians their rights. The plan has failed even before it’s announced. A view echoed over coffee in Ramallah. That’s an hour away – or triple that if there are delays at Israeli checkpoints. Here we met some of the Oslo generation; Palestinians who grew up with the peace accords signed in 1993. They say the Trump deal ends that era and it’s time for a new strategy.”

Guerin’s coffee shop interviewees are of course not random Palestinians but inadequately presented selected activists. The first of those – portrayed by the BBC as a “community organiser” is Fadi Quran who works as campaigns director for the political NGO Avaaz and is fond of using the baseless ‘apartheid’ smear.

Quran: “It finally spells the death of the peace process that many assumed would lead to a Palestinian state and instead opens the door for us as a new generation to begin building a type of resistance movement based on what Nelson Mandela did.”

Guerin: “So this is the end of the peace process as we know it?”

Quran: “This is the end of what I would call the illusion of a peace process.”

Guerin then turned to an interviewee presented as a “writer”. Mariam Barghouti has had articles published at anti-Israel outlets such as ‘Middle East Eye’, ‘Mondoweiss’ and ‘MEMO’. Erasing the fact that Ramallah has been under exclusive Palestinian Authority control since 1995, Guerin asked:

Guerin: “Do you think you think you will still be living under occupation in ten years’ time, in twenty years’ time?”

Barghouti: “Everything, all Israeli policies against Palestinians are happening at such a high speed that it’s terrifying to think of where we’re gonna be five years from now.”

Guerin: “And tonight on the streets of Ramallah, a vow to return to the Intifada – the Palestinian uprising. The crowd here was small; sand and fury perhaps but also weariness and resignation. Well, Palestinian leaders have called for more protests tomorrow at what they have dubbed the fraud of the century. They have few other cards to play.”

Obviously Guerin does not consider negotiation to be one of the “cards” available to the Palestinians. She closed her report with an anonymous quote.

Guerin: “America and Israel are now moving in lockstep and the deal unveiled today has sent a stark message to the Palestinians. In the words of one analyst it boils down to this: you’ve lost, get over it.”

That unnamed analyst is Robert Malley of the NGO International Crisis Group (ICG). At least we now know what genre of Middle East analysis Orla Guerin prefers.

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

Hizballah video brings BBC narrative into focus

The Jerusalem Post reports:

“[The] Terror group Hezbollah published a video of the 2015 attack on an IDF convoy on the Israel-Lebanon border that killed two soldiers and wounded seven others.

The video shows the rocket launcher used in the attack, as well as the launch of a rocket and the explosion when the convoy was hit and Staff-Seargent Dor Nini and Major Yochai Kalengel were killed in January 28, 2015.”

The Times of Israel adds:

“Hezbollah operatives interviewed by al-Mayadeen [the Hizballah linked channel that recently aired the video] said the attack was ordered by the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah and was meant to demonstrate it had the willingness and ability to respond militarily, according to Israel’s Channel 12 news.

They said the decision to attack at Mount Dov, known to the Lebanese as Shebaa Farms, was because the Israeli territory is claimed by Lebanon. The operatives also said Hezbollah had observed the road on which the vehicles were hit for several days before attacking.”

That reference by the terror group’s operatives to the Shebaa Farms of course stems from Hizballah’s use of that issue as one of the pretexts for its continued existence.

As readers may recall, BBC reporting on the January 28th 2015 attack amplified that Hizballah narrative.

Patchy BBC reporting on Hizballah attacks in northern Israel

How the BBC framed the story of Hizballah’s latest attack

The recently released Hizballah video includes footage shot from a similar angle to that shown in a filmed report by Orla Guerin which is still available online under the interestingly punctuated title “Hezbollah ‘attack site’ near Shebaa Farms identified“ and which likewise promotes the terror group’s  “disputed border” narrative.

Related Articles:

BBC’s ‘In Pictures’ compromises accuracy with sloppy caption

The BBC News website’s muddled geography confuses audiences

More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

 

 

BBC interviewees appear in report on extremism in UK charities

The Henry Jackson Society think tank recently published a new report:  

“The British taxpayer has handed over more than £6 million to charities that are currently, or have been in the past, used by extremists to further their radical agenda, according to a new report from the Henry Jackson Society. […]

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: How Islamist Extremists Exploit the UK Charitable Sector finds that, despite more than a decade of attempts to improve regulations, a concerning number of UK-registered charities continue to fund and support extremism.

Figures from across the Islamist spectrum, including the Muslim Brotherhood, form a network which seeks to delegitimise and push out moderate voices, while masquerading as representatives of ‘true’ Islam. […]

 The Charity Commission – legally unable to de-register these ‘bad’ charities – has been particularly ill-equipped to deal with these organisations. Its powers have been extended in recent legislation, but the public is still waiting for those new powers to be put to use to tackle this problem.”

The report itself states:

“Charities have long been used to support the Islamist extremist cause, with a network of charitable organisations playing a pivotal role in the funding of international jihadism. […]

Beyond the exploitation of charitable status by violent Islamist extremists to support terrorist activities, they may also be used, wittingly or unwittingly, to provide violent or non-violent extremists with the platform and legitimacy they require to spread their illiberal and extremist views. This may take the form of an individual or small group of extremist entryists seeking to abuse a pre-existing charity for their own purposes, or the establishment of an organisation with charitable status specifically for Islamist extremist objectives. These charities, which for example provide platforms for extremist individuals and promote their literature, can be used to create a climate conducive to radicalisation and introduce potentially vulnerable members of the public to individuals who hold intolerant and extremist views. […]

The 2015 Counter-Extremism strategy recognises that charities were one of the institutions vulnerable to exploitation by extremists, who may use them to spread their ideology and charities have in the past, for example, promoted hate literature inciting the murder of homosexuals and Muslims and have hosted speakers who promote homophobic, sexist or anti-Semitic views.”

Members of the British public would probably not expect any of the organisations and individuals named in such a report to have been showcased by their publicly funded broadcaster. They would, however, be mistaken.

Page 37 of the report states:

“There are a number of well-reported incidents involving charities providing humanitarian aid and running aid convoys being involved in non-violent and violent extremism; above all, they highlight the blurred line between the two. On 16 October 2017 the Charity Commission published recent cases of individuals convicted of terrorism offences who were involved with charities. On 23 December 2016 two individuals, Syed Hoque and Mashoud Miah were convicted of entering into funding arrangements that they knew to be for the purposes of terrorism (contrary to Sec 17 Terrorism Act 2000). […]

During their trial the Charity Commission stated that they were investigating a number of charities organising aid convoys, including Al Fatiha Global, with which one of the pair was also involved. […]

Al Fatiha Global is a UK-registered charity that had a total income of £218,778 in the financial year ending 2016. It was investigated by the Charity Commission in 2014 after the son of its Chief Executive was photographed in Syria with two men holding assault rifles. The Charity Commission had “serious concerns about [the charity’s] governance and financial management” and set out to investigate allegations of “inappropriate links between the charity and individuals purportedly involved in supporting armed or other inappropriate activities in Syria”.

On August 13th 2014, the BBC aired a filmed report from the Gaza Strip by Orla Guerin which was based in part on a British woman’s unchallenged allegation that an IDF sniper had shot a Palestinian for “no reason whatsoever”. As was pointed out here at the time:

“Viewers are also not told that Ms Andolini’s activities in the Gaza Strip include distributing aid funded by a British charity called Al-Fatiha Global […] which is currently under investigation by the Charity Commission due to “serious concerns about the governance and financial management of the charity”.”

The HJS report states:

“Alan Henning, an aid worker who was kidnapped and executed by Islamic State, travelled with an aid convoy reportedly organised by either Al-Fatiha Global or Rochdale Aid 4 Syria, which raises money for Al-Fatiha and others. […]

Additionally, Aid4Syria, whose parent charity was al-Fatiha, and for which Alan Henning had been an ambulance driver, showed signs of extremism. The charity had promoted an event entitled “O’Ummah Wake Up and Rise!” on its Facebook page, involving speakers Zahir Mahmood and Moazzam Begg. The convoy’s team leader had posted on his Facebook page “Our men love death like your men love life”, alluding to a similar quote by Osama bin Laden. Aid4Syria had also named its water project and emergency vehicles after Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted in the US for attempting to kill US military personnel.”

Readers may recall that in late 2013 reports by BBC journalist Catrin Nye – who travelled with one of those convoys – were heavily promoted on a range of BBC platforms. Nye produced additional reports on the same subject in July 2014 which once again failed to adequately inform audiences of the convoys organisers’ links to extremism.

The HJS report goes on:

“One of the charity workers on the convoy, Majid Freeman, had posted extremist comments online, including calling for prayers for the brothers of Islamic State fighter Ifthekar Jaman. […] Freeman also had approvingly posted a link on Facebook to a video presenting Islamic State as a legitimate reaction to Western foreign policy. […] Freeman had retweeted support for Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra, as well as the group’s propaganda, and on Facebook wrote that Jerusalem would be “conquered by jihad, not by peace”.”

Freeman – described as “a credit adviser from Leicester” – was featured in one of Catrin Nye’s articles and following the kidnapping of Alan Henning he appeared in numerous other BBC reports – e.g. here, here and here.

Another charity appearing in this report is Islamic Relief (from p.64). In 2014 the BBC published an article in which that organisation’s links to Hamas were denied and later the same year the BBC produced a very superficial report on an audit of the charity.

The organisation ‘Viva Palestina’ – which had its charitable status removed in 2013 following an inquiry by the Charity Commission – is discussed on page 72 of the HJS report. Its founder – George Galloway – has appeared frequently on BBC platforms.

Among the individuals named in the report is Cerie Bullivant of ‘Cage‘ who not only has his own BBC profile but has appeared on numerous BBC programmesincluding one on ‘how best to tackle radicalisation’. Moazzam Begg – also of ‘Cage’ – has likewise been a BBC contributor. The report also names Haitham al Haddad (from p. 96) who was featured in a series of reports by Catrin Nye as well as in additional BBC content.

As regular readers are aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

However the BBC usually makes little effort to adhere to that clause when quoting and promoting NGOs, charities and their representatives.

The same editorial guidelines state that due impartiality does not require “detachment from fundamental democratic principles” of the type typically rejected by extremists and the BBC’s public purposes oblige it to “contribute to social cohesion” in the UK.

Obviously that obligation is not met – and the wider interests of the public not served – through the provision of platforms and legitimacy to extremists – particularly when charities are regularly promoted without the required disclosure of their ideologies, political agendas and any extremist links.

Related Articles:

UK government’s MB review shows 2014 BBC report misleads

Not just about journalism: BBC editorial guidelines and the wider public interest

Comparing two BBC journalists’ conversations with British and Israeli pilots

Just two weeks ago listeners to BBC Radio 4 were once again given an inaccurate and misleading portrayal of the meaning of proportionality in war by the corporation’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

“When the wars flare up more Palestinians are killed than Israelis, including many more civilians. […] The laws of war say belligerents shouldn’t use disproportionate force. Israel always denies doing so when it attacks Gaza but the evidence suggests that it does. The Israelis claim to take great care not to kill civilians but they use heavy weapons in densely populated areas, making civilian casualties certain.”

In other words, Bowen is claiming that ‘proportionate’ means not killing civilians and that the use of “heavy weapons in densely populated areas” means automatic transgression of “the laws of war” because there are resulting civilian casualties.

In fact, proportionality has a different meaning altogether.

“Even when there is a chance that citizens will be injured as a result of military action, there is no absolute prohibition against taking such action, as long as the target being attacked is a legitimate military target. The prohibition against such an attack applies only when the collateral damage to civilians is likely to be excessive in relation to the anticipated direct military advantage of destroying the military objective.”

And, as explained here:

“In everyday usage, the word “proportional” implies numerical comparability, and that seems to be what most of Israel’s critics have in mind: the ethics of war, they suggest, requires something like a tit-for-tat response. So if the number of losses suffered by Hezbollah or Hamas greatly exceeds the number of casualties among the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), then Israel is morally and perhaps legally culpable for the “disproportionate” casualties.

But these critics seemed largely unaware that “proportionality” has a technical meaning connected to the ethics of war. The long tradition of just war theory distinguishes between the principles governing the justice of going to war (jus ad bellum) and those governing just conduct in warfare (jus in bello). There are two main jus in bello criteria. The criterion of discrimination prohibits direct and intentional attacks on noncombatants, although neither international law nor the just war tradition that has morally informed it requires that a legitimate military target must be spared from attack simply because its destruction may unintentionally injure or kill noncombatants or damage civilian property and infrastructure. International law and just war theory only insist that the anticipated collateral damage — the “merely foreseen” secondary effects — must be “proportionate” to the military advantage sought in attacking the legitimate military target. This sense of proportionality is the second jus in bello criterion; it has to do almost entirely with the foreseen but unintended harm done to noncombatants and to noncombatant infrastructure.”

Recently the BBC’s defence correspondent Jonathan Beale produced two reports concerning the use of “heavy weapons in densely populated areas” in another part of the world and the potential resulting civilian casualties.

War against IS: Have RAF air strikes killed civilians? June 29th 2017

Can civilian deaths be avoided in RAF strikes on IS? July 2nd 2017

Particularly noteworthy is the fact that – in contrast to his colleague – Beale did not attempt to provide his viewers and readers with amateur interpretations of “the laws of war” in either those two reports or in a similar one he produced last September titled “Have RAF air strikes against IS killed no civilians?“.

In all three of those reports Beale did clarify to BBC audiences that civilian casualties are most likely unavoidable.

“But ultimately, as one pilot told me, however hard you try to avoid civilian casualties “you still can’t see through walls and rubble”.

Major General James Poss, a former Director of Intelligence in the US Air Force, says there is always doubt: “In the fog of war you can never know everything.””

“The US-led coalition is trying to dislodge the extremists from their strongholds of Raqqa and Mosul – cities with tightly packed streets where they are hiding among the local population and using them as human shields. The risk of civilian casualties is extremely high.

I put it to Air Commodore Johnny Stringer, who is overseeing the UK’s contribution, that avoiding civilian casualties is simply not possible. He acknowledges that assessment might change over time. “We are human and not perfect,” he says, “but we are doing our damnedest” to get it right.”

“Even the RAF admits it is now more difficult to avoid civilian casualties with the fight against IS focused on Raqqa and the old city of Mosul: dense, tightly packed urban areas with large civilian populations.”

Speaking to RAF pilots, Beale also clarified the lengths to which members of the British armed forces go to try to avoid unintended harm to civilians.

“It’s fair to say the US-led coalition is trying hard to avoid civilian casualties. Unlike Russia, coalition warplanes only use precision-guided weapons – often directed by GPS or laser.

Air Commodore Dai Wittingham, who ran the RAF’s air campaign in Afghanistan, says there’s “excruciating” care taken to avoid the loss of innocent life. Intelligence analysts examine each target carefully before and after each strike using detailed aerial photos and video.

Like other coalition pilots they’ve also redirected bombs and missiles at the last minute. In every case when they are about to hit a “hot target” pilots look for an area nearby where they can “shift cold” to avoid civilians who might suddenly appear.”

“For its part, the RAF says it is going out of its way to address worries about mistakes which might result in civilian casualties. The BBC has been told that in the second half of 2016 – when the offensive on Mosul began – the RAF either turned down, or asked for more intelligence about, half the targets it was given. […]

I ask “Dave” whether he can guarantee there will be zero civilian casualties. Even infrared sensors can’t see through walls. After a brief pause he admits its [sic] not possible to give that assurance. But, he says, they are doing everything in their power, including watching an area for hours, to protect civilian life.”

And at the end of this article Beale told BBC audiences that

“They [the RAF] are fighting a brutal enemy, who unlike them, has no worries about killing civilians.”

Of course Israel also goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, similarly using video analysis and aborting missions when civilians suddenly appear on the scene and even providing advance warning by leaflet or phone.

It is therefore interesting to compare Jonathan Beale’s conversations with British pilots in those three reports to an interview by Orla Guerin with an Israeli pilot in 2014.

Guerin: “This is footage Israel is keen to share. An airstrike in Gaza being aborted because children are spotted. But the UN says most of those killed by Israel are innocent civilians.”

Guerin: “Captain Omri shows us in a simulator his bird’s-eye view of the terrain.”

Guerin: “This is a crowded area. People have nowhere to go. In many cases they have no transport, they have no means of escape. And you’re attacking hospitals [sic] where the wounded are being treated.”

Omri: “Well at the moment we’re doing everything possible to ensure the security and safety of both our civilians and as much as possible the Palestinian civilians. We have offered medical aid and we’ve offered a field hospital…”

Guerin [interrupts] “Well wouldn’t it be better if you stopped bombing the civilians rather than offering them medical aid later?” [emphasis added]

Omri: “Well Israel has always opted for a diplomatic solution.”

Guerin: “I mean some people might say, you know, how do you sleep at night?” [emphasis added]

Omri: “Well I sleep very well at night because I know that what we’re doing is saving lives the way I see it because whenever….”

Guerin [interrupts] “Saving Israeli lives.”

Omri: “No, no. I know how many attacks I have already called off and I’m talking about numerous attacks so I know as a fact that I’ve saved dozens of lives.”

The contrasts between those conversations with British pilots engaged in military action in which no British civilians are at risk and an Israeli pilot during a war in which Israeli civilians were under constant attack are of course blatantly obvious – as are the double standards in BBC reporting on the subject of unintended civilian casualties during warfare.

 

Differing BBC definitions of human shields in Iraq and Gaza

h/t JC, YM

Back in November we noted the contrast between BBC reporting on the use of human shields by ISIS in the Mosul area of Iraq and its silence concerning Hamas’ use of human shields in the Gaza Strip during the summer 2014 conflict.

As readers no doubt recall, within hours of the 2014 conflict’s commencement the BBC began to repeatedly amplify false claims that Israel was ‘targeting civilians’ – and hence committing ‘war crimes’ – while failing to report Hamas’ placement of military assets (including missile launchers) in populated civilian areas.

BBC News promotes and amplifies falsehood that Israel deliberately targets civilians

Third example of BBC promotion of the lie that Israel deliberately targets civilians  

BBC’s Bowen promotes accusations of Israeli ‘war crimes’

A written report which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on March 13th (“IS fighters left in Mosul will die, says US envoy McGurk“) again informed BBC audiences of the use of human shields by ISIS.

‘”Mosul’s liberation is increasingly in sight, albeit with increasingly difficult fighting ahead,” Mr McGurk [US envoy to the multinational coalition] told reporters on Sunday.

He said Iraqi forces were retaking “some of the most difficult ground that we knew would have to be reclaimed”.

He added: “They’re doing this in a dense urban environment facing a suicidal enemy that’s using civilians as shields.”’ [emphasis added] 

A filmed report – also shown on BBC television news programmes – that appeared on the same page of the website on the same day under the headline “Tamer Suhalia Najaf: ‘Three of my daughters were killed’” features an injured civilian from Mosul whose three daughters were killed in an airstrike by Iraqi forces and/or their coalition partners on an ISIS position placed near their house.

In contrast to the BBC’s 2014 reports from the Gaza Strip, viewers of this report did not hear any claims of deliberate targeting of civilians or allegations of ‘war crimes’.

Viewers of another filmed report, which was shown on BBC television news programmes and posted on the BBC News website on March 10th under the title “Battle for Mosul: The high price of freedom“, heard Orla Guerin tell the story of a woman whose house had been taken over by ISIS militiamen.

“She shows us how they hid when IS fighters stormed in to use them as human shields. One went to the roof, she says, but he started to shoot. He attacked the army.” [emphasis added]

As readers may recall, in an August 2014 report titled “Gaza conflict: Allegations of war crimes” the same Orla Guerin told BBC television audiences:

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.”

Complaints concerning the accuracy of that statement were repeatedly dismissed by the BBC, with the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee calling the complainants’ definition of human shields into question.

“The Adviser considered first the complainants’ concerns that overwhelming evidence existed at the time that Hamas was using civilians as human shields and that to suggest otherwise was untrue. She noted that one point of dispute was how the term “human shield” was defined – and whether it meant Hamas using the proximity of civilians to deter an Israeli response to their actions or Hamas forcibly moving or keeping civilians in a location, on the basis that it would be likely to reduce the Israeli response.”

When that ESC decision was published in 2015 we noted that:

“The BBC Trust is charged with the task of ensuring that the BBC delivers its mission to inform, educate and entertain its funding public. Not only does the ESC’s ruling on this subject serve to compound the issue of the BBC’s self-censored reporting on Hamas’ use of human shields throughout last summer’s conflict, but it also does nothing to ensure that in relation to other or future conflicts, audiences will benefit from a higher standard of journalism which will ensure that the BBC meets its public purpose remit of building ” a global understanding of international issues”.

That, of course, does not only apply to conflicts involving Israel and Hamas: unless it intends to apply a different standard in the case of other conflicts, the ESC’s adoption of an unsourced interpretation of the definition of human shields which includes only civilians forcibly relocated close to a military objective is bound to affect the accuracy of the BBC’s reporting in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere.”

As we see, the BBC has indeed chosen to apply a definition of the term human shields in its reporting from Iraq which is markedly different to the one used in its coverage from Gaza.

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Comparing BBC reporting on human shields in Gaza and Iraq

As readers no doubt recall, one of the many remarkable features of BBC coverage of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip was the corporation’s failure to report on Hamas’ use of the local civilian population as human shields.

Not only did BBC journalists refrain from reporting adequately on the issue of Hamas’ placement of military assets in populated areas (with the BBC later claiming that it was “very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out”) and the terror group’s instructions to civilians to stay put in such areas but some BBC correspondents even went out of their way to deny the phenomenon.

“I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.” Jeremy Bowen, July 22, 2014.

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.” Orla Guerin, August 13, 2014.

Complaints from members of the public on that issue were eventually dismissed by the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee in a tortured and self-contradicting ruling which adopted an interpretation of the term human shields that conflicts with existing definitions. The ESC advisor wrote:

“…there may not be universal agreement over the meaning of ‘human shield’ – and whether this should be understood to mean the deliberate placement of civilians near combat targets (and preventing them from leaving) or simply firing from residential areas.” 

In contrast to that ‘radio silence’ on the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields in Gaza in 2014, recent BBC coverage of the multinational military operation to drive ISIS out from the Mosul area in Iraq which began on October 16th has included several reports concerning that terror group’s use of human shields.human-shields-1

Just three days after the operation commenced, the BBC News website published an article titled “Mosul battle: US says IS using human shields” which amplified statements made by one of the parties to the Combined Joint Task Force conducting the operation.

“The US has accused Islamic State (IS) militants of using civilians as human shields as Iraqi forces move closer to the group’s stronghold in Mosul. […]

Asked by reporters in Washington if IS was using civilians as human shields, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said “absolutely”.

“They are being held there against their will,” he said on Tuesday. “We have not seen any change in the last day of people leaving or fleeing.”

Residents reached by telephone by Reuters news agency said IS was preventing people fleeing the city and had directed some of them towards buildings likely to be targeted by air strikes.”

The report did not include any indication of independent BBC confirmation of those claims.

October 21st saw the publication of an article headlined “Mosul battle: IS ‘may use civilians as human shields’” which amplified speculative statements made by a UN official.

“At least 200 Iraqi families have been made to leave their homes for Mosul by Islamic State (IS) fighters and could be used as human shields, the UN warns. […]

Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said there was “a grave danger that ISIL fighters will not only use such vulnerable people as human shields but may opt to kill them rather than see them liberated,” using an acronym for IS.”human-shields-2

On October 28th the BBC News website published a report titled “Mosul Iraq battle: ‘Tens of thousands of civilians’ used as IS human shields” which again amplified UN statements.

“Islamic State (IS) militants have abducted tens of thousands of civilians from around the Iraqi city of Mosul to use as human shields, the UN says. […]

“Credible reports” suggested that civilians in sub-districts around Mosul had been forced from their homes and relocated inside the city since the offensive began earlier this month, UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said. […]

“Isil’s depraved cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilian hostages to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men and children as human shields,” Ms Shamdasani added, using an acronym for IS.”

Once again, there was no indication of the BBC having independently confirmed those reports before their publication.

On November 7th visitors to the BBC News website and viewers of BBC television news saw a filmed report titled “Battle for Mosul: IS ‘herded human shields like sheep’“.

“The BBC’s Karen Allen spoke to residents of one town near Mosul who say they were used as “human shields” by retreating militants.”

So as we see, within less than a month since the launch of the military operation against ISIS in the Mosul region, BBC audiences were alerted to the terror group’s use of civilians as human shields on at least four occasions. The majority of those reports were based on information provided by outside sources and – in contrast to the 2014 reports from the Gaza Strip, where the corporation did have journalists on the ground in the relevant areas – the BBC apparently did not find it necessary in this case to find “evidence” of its own before reporting on the use of human shields by ISIS. 

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

On August 12th 2006 the BBC News website reported that:

“The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a new resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Resolution 1701 calls for “a full cessation of hostilities”, and UN and Lebanese troops to replace Israeli forces in southern Lebanon.”

BBC audiences were also provided with the text of that UNSC resolution which of course includes the following:1701 text art

“Emphasises the importance of the extension of the control of the government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) and resolution 1680 (2006), and of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, for it to exercise its full sovereignty, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the government of Lebanon;”

The resolution calls for:

  • “security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;
  • full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State;
  • no foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its Government;
  • no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government;”

The same resolution expanded the mandate and capabilities of the UNIFIL force in southern Lebanon and charged it, inter alia, with aiding the Lebanese government to prevent Hizballah’s rearmament.

While that UNSC resolution brought an end to the 2006 war, it has obviously failed to achieve its long-term goal of avoiding the next round of conflict by preventing Hizballah’s rearmament and entrenchment in southern Lebanon.

The BBC’s public purpose remit commits it to keeping its funding public “in touch with what is going on in the world” and to building “a global understanding of international issues” and so it would be reasonable to assume that audiences have been kept up to date on the issues pertaining to implementation of Resolution 1701 throughout the decade since it was adopted – but is that the case?

The ‘timeline’ in the BBC’s online profile of Lebanon (last updated in August 2016) makes no mention at all of the existence of UNSC Resolution 1701.

“2006 July-August – Israel attacks after Hezbollah kidnaps two Israeli soldiers. Civilian casualties are high and the damage to civilian infrastructure wide-ranging in 34-day war. UN peacekeeping force deploys along the southern border, followed by Lebanese army troops for first time in decades.”

The profile itself includes a generalised reference to the disarming of militias without specifically recalling Resolution 1701 and without clarifying the current status of that ‘demand’. 

“The UN has demanded the dismantling of all armed groups in Lebanon, including Palestinian militias and the military wing of Hezbollah, which controls much of southern Lebanon.”

The BBC’s current profile of Hizballah (last updated in March 2016) tells audiences that:

“After Israel withdrew in 2000, Hezbollah resisted pressure to disarm and continued to strengthen its military wing, the Islamic Resistance. In some ways, its capabilities now exceed those of the Lebanese army, its considerable firepower used against Israel in the 2006 war.”

And:

“Hezbollah survived the [2006] war and emerged emboldened. Although it is has since upgraded and expanded its arsenal and recruited scores of new fighters, there has been no major flare-up along the border area, which is now patrolled by UN peacekeepers and the Lebanese army.”

No mention is made of Resolution 1701 and the obligation to disarm the terrorist organisation, prevent its rearmament and remove it from southern Lebanon in either of those profiles currently appearing on the BBC News website.

Immediately after the 2006 war, the BBC was able to tell its audiences that:

“UN Security Council resolutions call for armed militia groups like Hezbollah to disarm.” 

Nearly a year after the adoption of Resolution 1701, the BBC sent Martin Asser to southern Lebanon to ‘examine UNIFIL’s performance’. The caption to the main photograph illustrating his article informed audiences that “Unifil troops are meant to prevent Hezbollah bearing arms”.1701 Asser art

“After the July 2006 war, the [UNIFIL] force received new orders and thousands of reinforcements under the ceasefire resolution 1701, which also stipulated the deployment of the Lebanese army in the area.

Previously the area had become the fiefdom of Hezbollah, the Shia Islamist and militant movement whose cross-border raid on 12 July – snatching two Israeli soldiers – was the catalyst for the 34-day conflict.

The post-conflict objective was for Unifil to help the Lebanese government extend its sovereignty to the southern frontier, so Hezbollah’s armed wing would no longer be free to menace nearby Israeli towns or troops patrolling the border.”

Asser added:

“Hezbollah fighters are masters of concealment and guerrilla warfare – their weapons were never on show before the war, so they are unlikely to be caught red-handed by Unifil or Lebanese troops now.”

An old profile of Hizballah from 2010 states:

“Despite two UN resolutions (1559 passed in 2004, and 1701, which halted the war) calling for disarming of militias in Lebanon, Hezbollah’s military arm remains intact.”

In 2013 BBC audiences were told by the corporation’s man in Beirut, Jim Muir, that “Hezbollah has scrupulously observed the ceasefire that ended hostilities in 2006”. In 2015 Orla Guerin reported from south Lebanon but failed to use the opportunity provided by a rare BBC visit to that area to inform audiences of Hizballah’s use of civilian villages to store weapons and as sites from which to launch attacks against Israel.

The BBC has also consistently avoided or downplayed the topic of Iranian breaches of UNSC Resolution 1701 in the form of its transfer of arms to Hizballah. In 2013 BBC audiences heard Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen playing dumb (and some Hizballah spin) on the issue of Syrian transfers of weapons to the terrorist organisation. 

Already in 2007 – just over a year after the war and the resolution which brought it to an end – the UN admitted that Hizballah had “rebuilt and even increased its military capacity” and since then its weapons stocks have vastly increased and diversified. The BBC is of course aware of that fact – as indicated in an article by BBC Monitoring’s Lamia Estatie published on July 11th 2016 under the headline “Hezbollah: Five ways group has changed since 2006 Israel war“.1701 Estatie art

“Its weapons arsenal grew from from [sic] 33,000 rockets and missiles before the 2006 war to an estimated 150,000. Similarly, it swelled from a few thousand members in 2006 to an estimated 20,000-plus.

After 2011, Hezbollah’s military support for the Iran-backed Syrian government – its weapons supply line – gave its fighters considerable combat experience and exposure to Russian military planning.”

No mention of UNSC Resolution 1701 appears in that report either.

It is apparent that as the decade since the UNSC’s adoption of 1701 progressed, BBC audiences saw less coverage of the topic of the existence of the resolution itself and the fact that its terms have been serially violated. Given the obligations to its funding public laid out in the public purposes remit, it is difficult to see how the BBC can justify that pattern of reporting.

Related Articles:

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part one

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part two