More repetition of the BBC’s partial narrative on construction

On the afternoon of July 31st the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel backs West Bank homes for settlers and Palestinians” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

Unfortunately for any reader hoping to gain a better understanding of the broader topic behind the specific story, the report offered nothing but a repeat of well-worn framing intended to advance a particular political narrative.

As usual the report employs partisan terminology to describe Israelis living in places the BBC believes they should not and the communities and region in which they reside. [emphasis added]

“Israel has approved the construction of 6,000 new homes for Jewish settlers and 700 homes for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

The decision about new homes in settlements further extends the Israeli presence in the West Bank.”

As usual readers are presented with a partial portrayal of ‘international law’.

“Israeli settlements in the West Bank are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

Moreover, embedded into the report is a video narrated by the Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which first appeared in June and in which it is claimed that ‘international law’ not only applies to places but also to people.

 Settlers are seen as illegal under international law but Israel rejects that.” 

Later on – under the sub-heading “Why are settlements such an issue?” – the report claims that:

Israel has settled about 400,000 Jews in West Bank settlements, with another 200,000 living in East Jerusalem.”

Of course Israelis residing in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem which were illegally occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967 do so because that is their own personal choice and not because they were “settled” there by any Israeli government. The use of that terminology is a nod to the claim that Israeli towns and villages in those regions are ‘illegal under international law’ based on the Fourth Geneva Convention which states “[t]he Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

The article tells readers that:

“It is not clear whether the Palestinian homes would be new constructions or merely legal approval for 700 already existing homes in what is known as “Area C” of the West Bank – where Palestinian villages often lie close to Israeli settlements, and where Israel has full control of the territory.”

It does not however inform audiences that “Israel has full control” of Area C – including planning -because the Palestinians agreed to that nearly twenty-four years ago and the absence of that information means that readers are unable to put the predictably unquestioned and unqualified Palestinian claims promoted in the next two paragraphs into their correct context.

“The Palestinian leadership dismissed the announcement, saying it rejected any Israeli construction or controls over Palestinian construction in the West Bank.

It said it was “evidence of the dark colonial mentality of the rules [sic] in Israel and which ignores all United Nations resolutions, international law and the signed agreements”.”

Providing no evidence to support its claim concerning a plan which has not even been published, the report goes on:

“The move comes ahead of a visit by US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who heads the White House’s faltering attempts to broker a peace deal.”

As has so often been the case in the past, the BBC conceals the fact that in 1995 the US Congress passed the ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act’ – a law declaring that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.”

“In 2017 Mr Trump announced that the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, overturning decades of official US policy.”

While the BBC continues to ignore allegations of corruption at the top of UNRWA management and the related suspension of funding by Switzerland and the Netherlands, readers are also told that:

“Last year the US stopped contributing to the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), which has been supporting Palestinian refugees since 1949.”

UNRWA was actually only set up in December 1949 and clause 6 of the relevant UN resolution refers to the commencement of “direct relief and works programmes” from January 1st 1950.

Readers see more unquestioning amplification of Palestinian messaging with no alternative view and no information concerning Israel’s past evacuations of communities in Sinai, the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria provided.

“What happens to the settlements is one of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians – Palestinians say the presence of settlements makes a future independent state impossible.”

The report closes with a characteristically euphemistic portrayal of past events:

“Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since 2014, when a US-brokered attempt to reach a deal collapsed.”

Readers are not informed that those negotiations actually collapsed because, in addition to breaching an undertaking to avoid acts of accession to international institutions during the period of negotiations, the Palestinian Authority chose to opt for ‘reconciliation’ with Hamas.

As is the case in any BBC report concerning building tenders and construction in the areas occupied by Jordan for nineteen years, the corporation once again demonstrates that its professed commitment to ‘impartial’ reporting is pure fiction.

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BBC News again sidesteps an issue that does not fit the narrative

Last year we noted the significance of the BBC’s failure to adequately inform its audiences about Palestinian violations of agreements signed with Israel within the framework of the Oslo Accords concerning freedom of access and worship at holy sites located in areas under Palestinian Authority control.

The BBC’s narrative on ‘East Jerusalem’ omits relevant context

“Obviously Israeli Jews are not able to visit the synagogue in Gaza City today and visits to additional sites on that list are either virtually impossible or severely restricted. Some of those holy and historically important sites have been vandalised, including Joseph’s Tomb which – as the BBC reported at the time – was set ablaze by Palestinian rioters in October 2015. 

Holy places to which access is supposedly guaranteed by the Oslo Accords have also been the scene of numerous terror attacks and planned attacks…”

The last time the BBC showed any interest in such a story was in March and that was because two Palestinians were killed while throwing explosive devices at soldiers securing visitors.

In that report readers were told that Joseph’s Tomb in Schem (Nablus) “has been a source of friction in the past” but the BBC refrained from clarifying that “friction” actually means repeated Palestinian attacks on both the site itself and the security forces guarding visiting worshipers.

This week the Israeli media reported that during the monthly visit:

“IDF forces found a pipe bomb near Joseph’s Tomb during preparations before the arrival of 1,200 Jewish worshipers to the compound in Nablus. The bomb was neutralized in a controlled explosion. 

Disturbances broke out as the worshipers entered the tomb, as rioters burned tires and threw stones at IDF forces. The soldiers responded with riot dispersal means, and the prayer services continued undisturbed.”

Under the terms of its charter the BBC is of course obliged to “provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”. While in recent weeks the corporation has repeatedly amplified a PA promoted narrative touting the demise of its interpretation of the two-state solution, the BBC continues to be notably less interested in informing audiences about the Palestinian Authority’s failure to uphold agreements already signed nearly a quarter of a century ago.

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BBC News glosses over repeated Palestinian violence at holy site

 

 

 

Do BBC audiences get the ‘range and depth of analysis’ promised?

The BBC’s explanation of the first of its public purposes includes the following:

“It should offer a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers…so that all audiences can engage fully with major…global issues…as active and informed citizens.”

In contrast to that fine declaration, here is an example of actual practice taken from an article published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on July 20th under the headline “Benjamin Netanyahu becomes Israel’s longest-serving leader”.

“As head of the right-wing Likud party, Mr Netanyahu has a reputation as a hardliner on the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

Although he carried out a partial withdrawal from the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank in 1998 – handing most of it over to the Palestinian Authority – he is a staunch opponent of the land-for-peace formula.

He has since declared there will be no more evacuations of Jewish settlers or settlements under his rule, nor the creation of a fully fledged Palestinian state.”

The redeployment of Israeli troops from 80% of Hebron – in accordance with the protocol signed during Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister – took place in January 1997 rather than in 1998 as claimed by the BBC.

In those three short paragraphs the BBC tells its audiences that Netanyahu is “a hardliner”, supposedly justifying that description with the claim that he is “opponent of the land-for-peace formula” and will not evacuate Israeli communities or agree to a Palestinian state.

Audiences are given no explanation of what the “land-for-peace” formula is, how it originated or whether or not it has been successful and hence are not provided with the tools to judge Netanyahu’s alleged opposition to it for themselves. They are not informed that the two examples of treaties signed by Israel and Arab countries based on the concept of ‘land-for-peace’ – the agreements with Egypt and Jordan – have resulted in what some Israelis might describe as ‘land-for-not-war’ rather than peace.

The BBC’s would-be cameo refrains from mentioning the cases in which Israeli withdrawal from territory – for example parts of Gaza and Judea & Samaria in the early 1990s and the Gaza Strip in 2005 – not only failed to bring peace but was actually followed by greater violence. No mention is made of the effects that has had on perceptions of the concept of ‘land-for-peace’ in Israel: according to that BBC definition of a ‘hardliner’, it would include a significant proportion of the Israeli public as well as people such as former Labour politician Eitan Cabel, the ‘Blue & White’ party’s Moshe Ya’alon and writer A.B. Yehoshua.

Significantly, the BBC’s portrayal erases Palestinians (and their multiple refusals to accept ‘land for peace’ offers) from the picture entirely, promoting the narrative that Israel alone – and specifically its current prime minister – is responsible for the absence of peace.

A further example of how the BBC is more interested in narrative than fact comes in the article’s closing lines.

“He [Netanyahu] faces a tough challenge from political opponents seeking to topple him in elections on 17 September. Among them are another former prime minster, Ehud Barak, and a former military chief-of-staff.”

According to the latest opinion polls, Netanyahu’s ‘Likud’ party is on track to secure 32 Knesset seats in the election in two months’ time while Ehud Barak’s ‘Israel Democratic Party’ is polling four to five seats.

The BBC’s “depth of analysis” apparently defines that as a “tough challenge”.  

BBC Radio 4 listeners are told of ‘Palestinian air’

The July 11th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ included an item described as follows in its synopsis:

“More than 25 years on from the Oslo Peace accords, close friendships between Palestinians and Israelis are still rare. Charlie Faulkner attends a Shabbat meal in Jerusalem where an Israeli woman invites a former Palestinian prisoner to her home.”

Presenter Kate Adie introduced the item (from 11:25 here) with an inaccurate portrayal of the aims of the Oslo Accords, a one-sided explanation of factors supposedly making a two-state solution “more remote” and the same unevidenced claim about friendships between Israelis and Palestinians. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Adie: “It’s more than 25 years since the Oslo Peace Accords were signed, aiming to fulfil the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The accords led to the creation of a Palestinian Authority with limited self-governance of the West Bank and Gaza and raised hopes for a more peaceful future. But now the ultimate goal of establishing a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution seems more remote than ever amid rocket attacks and air strikes and an Israeli government taking a hard-line approach. Close friendships between Palestinians and Israelis are rare but Charlie Faulkner has come across a personal attempt to bring people together.”

Charlie Faulkner is not a BBC employee: she describes herself as “an independent journalist” currently located in Amman and has written for several Qatar-linked outlets includingMiddle East Eye’, ‘The New Arab’ and ‘Al Jazeera’.

Faulkner’s story was about what she claimed was “a very unusual dinner party” at the home of someone described as “Jewish American” despite having lived in Israel for twelve years.

“In just a few moments Susan – a Jewish American in her 60s – would be inviting Suli – a former Palestinian prisoner – into her home for Shabbat dinner even though she’d never had a conversation with a Palestinian before. It was Susan’s daughter, 33-year-old Noa, who’d orchestrated this unusual get-together.”

Although family names are absent from Faulkner’s account, Noa appears to be Noa Yammer – communications director for ‘Hand in Hand’ – and ‘Suli’ is apparently Sulaiman Khatib who has previously appeared in BBC content. Carefully avoiding the word terror, Faulkner told listeners:

“Suli, now in his mid-forties, was imprisoned for 10 years at the age of 14 after attacking two Israeli soldiers. Having informally joined the Fatah movement, one day he and a friend decided to steal the soldiers’ weapons. During the attempt – and in a moment of blind fury – Suli and his friend stabbed them. Luckily the soldiers survived, he said, and after his release from prison he focused on achieving peace. He’s the founder of a group called ‘Combatants for Peace’ and gives speaking tours around the world. This year he’ll publish a book he hopes will humanise both sides of the conflict.”

Radio 4 listeners were given no factual information about the activities, agenda and funding of the political NGO ‘Combatants for Peace’.

Again with no evidence provided to support the claim, listeners were told that:

“Encounters between Israelis and Palestinians like this are incredibly rare, set against an often tense political background. […] The conversation quickly turned serious. Israel’s Independence Day was taking place the following week and Suli’s organisation had planned a joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day service the evening before. He invited Susan to attend. Immediately she bristled but answered very honestly. She said she felt that attending would be disrespectful to the sacrifice made by Israeli soldiers who had died for the country.”

Faulkner made no effort to explain to listeners that that annual event – held on what is Israel’s Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism – is considered by many to be controversial with “critics accusing it of legitimizing terrorism and equating Israel’s fallen soldiers and those who attacked them”.

Listeners heard Faulkner’s descriptions of her protagonists’ “attachment to the land”, with one including superficial references to the Six Day War and the Palestinian refugee issue – and promoting the notion of “Palestinian air”.

“Having spent most of her life teaching religious studies, Susan explained that through her faith she felt a real attachment to the land. She also emphasised that the family had sacrificed some quality of life to be there.”

“Suli pointed out his own family’s attachment to the land and how his cousin in Jordan, whose parents were among the thousands of Palestinians who fled or were expelled during the 1967 war, is not allowed to return. His cousin often longs to breathe in Palestinian air, said Suli, and on those days he climbs Mount Nebo from which he can see Jerusalem and the village where Suli’s family still live.”

More one-sided framing followed:

“He talked about how his village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, called Hizme, has continued to suffer under what he describes as an ever-tightening grip of the Israeli authorities.”

Terrorist incidents in and around that village were of course not mentioned in Faulkner’s account.  

Israelis, however, were painted as largely intolerant.

“We talked about a social media post Noa had shared showing empathy for innocent Israelis and Palestinians caught up in the 2014 Gaza conflict. It had unintentionally sparked a highly emotional backlash from some friends and relatives. ‘We’re talking about these people’s children on the front lines’ Susan exclaimed. These people had seen Noa as siding with the enemy. […] Susan said she was proud of the way her daughter could hold both sides in equal esteem, suggesting she maybe wasn’t able to do so herself.”

‘From Our Own Correspondent’ promises BBC audiences “[i]nsight, wit and analysis from BBC correspondents, journalists and writers from around the world”. This report did not include any of those elements and was remarkably superficial and uninformative. It did, however, promote an inadequately portrayed political NGO, marginalise Israeli concerns and contribute to the inaccurate framing of the Oslo Accords and the supposedly ever “remote” two-state solution that has been quite frequently evident in recent BBC reports.  

 

BBC widens its ‘illegal under international law’ mantra to include people

A filmed report titled “Is peace between Israel and Palestinians out of reach?” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on June 24th. Narrated by the Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell, the video does not appear to have been filmed recently if the winter clothes worn by Knell and other people appearing in it are anything to go by.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Against a background of archive footage from the September 1993 signing of the declaration of principles – Oslo I – at the White House, Knell opened the report by asking:

“How did we get from this…to yet more of this?”

The second “this” was spoken as viewers saw footage of an air-strike in the Gaza Strip.

One answer to that question is the fact that such air strikes come in response to acts of terror by Hamas and other factions which were never included in the Oslo peace process but viewers of Knell’s report were not informed of that fact at any point and she went on to promote the misleading notion that “the Palestinians” as a whole were party to the Oslo Accords, continuing:

“It’s more than 25 years since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to make peace. But right now, as many see it, actual peace seems more out of reach than ever.”

After a heading reading “Why has it got harder to make peace?”, Knell went on:

“Politics has shifted on both sides. In recent years, Israeli coalition governments have been increasingly dominated by right-wing, nationalist and religious parties that are more hard-line and don’t believe giving up land will bring peace.”

Knell made no attempt to explain that such views are the result of Israel’s experiences after having withdrawn from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Neither did she bother to point out that the thirty-third Israeli government conducted negotiations in 2013/14 despite including the types of parties she specifies.

“During the campaign for the last election, won by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there was little talk of the two-state solution. Public support has fallen for this idea of creating an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Among Palestinians, a deep political split has left the nationalist project in disarray. On one side you have the Islamist movement, Hamas, widely seen as a terrorist group. It doesn’t recognise Israel’s right to exist.”

Viewers then saw an interesting portrayal of the violent coup conducted by Hamas in 2007 – and its result.

“Hamas won the last Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006 but after in-fighting, ended up just governing Gaza.”

Knell went on:

“Then there’s the Palestinian Authority which governs parts of the West Bank. It’s headed by Mahmoud Abbas, the ageing president. He’s led past peace talks with Israel. Nowadays, many Palestinians feel disillusioned with their leaders.”

Viewers were then led to believe that Palestinians have been “promised” a state.

“Palestinians say their promised state is becoming less viable because of a big increase in the number of Israeli settlers living in occupied areas. There were just over 200,000 in 1990. Now the number is three times bigger.”

Next viewers discovered that the BBC’s long-standing and partial mantra on ‘international law’ has been expanded to include not only places but people.

Settlers are seen as illegal under international law but Israel rejects that.”

Apparently the BBC has no qualms about portraying over half a million Jewish Israelis as “illegal”.

Knell went on:

“Palestinians say they won’t return to peace talks without a freeze on settlement building.”

Knell did not bother to tell viewers that when such a freeze was imposed in 2009/10, the Palestinians refused to “return to peace talks” for nine out of ten months or that they rejected another offer of such a freeze in 2013.

While showing viewers only parts of the mostly wire-mesh anti-terrorist fence constructed from concrete, Knell then promoted the “land-grab” fiction seen in so much past BBC reporting.

“And here’s something else that’s changed since the 1993 peace deal – this wall is part of Israel’s West Bank barrier. Work on it started during the second Palestinian uprising. Israel said it was to protect Israelis against attacks but the Palestinians see it as a land grab as it encroaches on land they want for their future state.”

Knell then promoted equivalence between Israeli victim of terrorism and Palestinian casualties resulting from either responses to terrorism or rioting and attempted attacks.

“Of course violence increases mistrust and thousands of people have been killed in this conflict in recent years. Many weren’t soldiers or militants. Israeli civilians have been killed and injured by Palestinians in suicide bombings and rocket attacks and in stabbings, shootings and car rammings. On the Palestinian side, many civilians have been killed and injured in Israeli air strikes or have been shot by Israeli security forces mostly during operations or clashes.”

Knell did not bother to clarify that the “Israeli air strikes” come in response to the rocket attacks.

“For a long time, the US had the job of peace mediator. But the Palestinians cut off ties with the Trump administration saying it was biased towards Israel. They’re furious at its decision to recognise contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and open this embassy here and with the issue dropping down the agenda for Arab states, there’s now no peace broker trusted by both sides.”

Once again we see that in the run-up to the Bahrain economic workshop, the BBC’s pre-emptive framing of the topic does little to contribute to in depth audience understanding of the issues at hand.

 

 

 

 

More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the first part of a long interview (from 30:05 here) with the PLO’s Saeb Erekat which was aired on June 20th (ahead of the upcoming economic workshop in Bahrain) on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ presented by Razia Iqbal.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

From 34:09 Iqbal continued:

Iqbal: “Do you think that the conference in Bahrain next week marks the beginning of the end of any notion of the two-state solution?”

Erekat: “I don’t think the notion of the two-state solution will ever disappear because it’s the only solution. If not this year, in 50 years. The difference will be how many Israelis and Palestinians will be killed because of these short-sighted, political blind politicians who believe that they’re here to carry out the settlement programme.”

With Erekat having used such terminology in the past, Iqbal should obviously have been ready to challenge that latter statement but refrained from doing so.

Iqbal: “But you say that the two-state solution will never disappear but there is also the idea of one state and equal rights for citizens, isn’t there?”

Erekat: “This will never be accepted by Israelis. Today from my home town Jericho on the Jordan River to the Mediterranean I am – a Christian and Muslim Palestinian – I’m 50.9% of the population. Benjamin Netanyahu’s 49.1% of the population.”

Iqbal: “The demographics go against it.”

BBC World Service radio listeners than heard Erekat promote the ‘apartheid’ smear – which went totally unchallenged just as was the case in his earlier interview on Radio 4.

Erekat: “So, Netanyahu and Kushner are trying to dictate what I call one state, two systems: apartheid. There are roads in the West Bank I cannot use today. I have a green ID card. Netanyahu has a blue ID card. I drive a car with white and green licence plate. Netanyahu drives a car yellow licence plate. There is a deeper apartheid system in the West Bank and East Jerusalem today than the one that existed in the darkest hours of South Africa’s apartheid. That’s the truth.”

Listeners were not told that while there is a grand total of 40.22 kms of roadway that Palestinian plated vehicles cannot use for security reasons, there are also roads – for example in Erekat’s home town of Jericho – that Israeli vehicles cannot access. Neither was it clarified that Erekat’s licence plates are a different colour to those of Israeli vehicles because he lives in Area A under total Palestinian Authority control and his vehicle registration comes from that authority, not from Israel. Likewise, Erekat is not an Israeli citizen and hence does not have the blue ID card given to all Israeli citizens regardless of religion or ethnicity.

In other words, Razia Iqbal and the ‘Newshour’ team were quite happy for listeners to go away with materially misleading impressions created by Saeb Erekat’s lies about an ‘apartheid’ system which does not exist.

Erekat: “So if one state, two system apartheid is not gonna work and we’re not gonna make work and if what many of Palestinians now are saying one state equal rights which is [unintelligible] as concept for Jews, Muslims and Christians to live equal, it’s not doable for Israelis.  Palestinian and Israeli relations is like physics; there is no vacuum. If they kill the two-state solution that will translate into blood of Palestinians and Israelis.”

Iqbal then went on to ask whether the participation of Arab states in the Bahrain workshop is a “betrayal”, to which Erekat replied in the negative, going on to claim that all participants “will say the only solution is a two-state solution, State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital on the 1967 borders”. Failing to point out to listeners that there is no such thing as “1967 borders”, Iqbal went on:

Iqbal: “But given the economic…the dire economic straits that the Palestinian Authority is in, isn’t it true that there is a vested interest for Egypt and Jordan – these two states in particular – to see a real change inside the Palestinian Authority and that there is animus against Mahmoud Abbas and that their presence at the conference could result in them being on the side of the Americans and saying actually this man is not the person that will help the Palestinians in the long term?”

Erekat: “This man was elected by the Palestinian people and he’s the president of Palestinian people and our law says he’ll be in office till a new president’s elected.”

With Iqbal having brought up the topic of Abbas herself, one would have thought that she would have been able to tell her listeners that his term of office ended over a decade ago and that presidential elections have not been held since 2005.

Iqbal: “Which will be when? When’s the date of the next election?”

Erekat: “We are trying now to get Hamas to accept elections. But I will tell you something: if Mother Theresa were to be the president of Palestinians and Montesquieu to be the speaker of Palestinians and Thomas Jefferson were to be the prime minister of Palestinians and they would say together a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital, they’d be branded as terrorists, corrupt, not good to govern.”

Failing to challenge that egregious assertion that Palestinian leaders have been “branded as terrorists” merely because they demand a Palestinian state, Iqbal went on to nurture Erekat’s politically motivated victimhood.

Iqbal: “And you say this because you think that there is a deep-seated…you’re suggesting that there’s a deep-seated antipathy to Palestinians per se?”

Erekat: “There is a deep ideological, religious commitment by people like Friedman, Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. These are settlers. These are belong to the school of settlers. Friedman used to be a guard in the Beit El settlement. Jason Greenblatt’s kids are studying in Gush HaTzion [sic – Gush Etzion] Israeli settlement. Their commitment is ideological. They don’t believe of us as people.”

Once again Iqbal should have been ready to challenge those claims because Erekat has used them before. She however had nothing to say about Erekat’s portrayal of US officials as “settlers” and instead  presented her last question:

Iqbal: “Do you regret being part of the Oslo agreement though in the context of the burgeoning settlements which really came out of Oslo?”

The number of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria of course cannot be accurately described as having ‘burgeoned’ since the Oslo Accords were signed and Iqbal made no effort to clarify that those agreements – signed by Erekat and his colleagues – placed no limits on construction in such communities.

Erekat: “No I don’t regret for a minute trying to achieve peace because I’m not doing anybody a favour. No-one benefits more from achieving peace more than the Palestinians and no-one stands to lose more in the absence of peace than Palestinians. And I really couldn’t care less if someone is pro-Israel or someone’s pro-Palestine. My world is divided between those who are pro-peace and those who are against peace.”

Razia Iqbal could have used the opportunity presented by and eight and a half minute interview with Saeb Erekat to delve into the issue of why he and his colleagues have repeatedly thwarted peace-making efforts over the past two and a half decades and to examine the question of whether it is time for “one of the most senior and long serving Palestinian officials”, as Erekat was presented in the programme’s synopsis, to step aside after having made no progress in his ostensible mission for a quarter of a century.

But rather than raise that and no less relevant issues such as Palestinian terrorism, the Hamas-Fatah split and the Hamas ideology which completely rejects the two-state solution, Iqbal was content to provide Erekat with a platform from which to present his talking points concerning the Bahrain conference largely unchallenged.

The BBC cannot seriously claim that this interview and the earlier one on BBC Radio 4 made a meaningful contribution to audience understanding of the topic.

Related Articles:

More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part one

BBC journalists get a ‘briefing’ from a past interviewee

BBC Radio 4 provides a platform for the PLO’s ‘apartheid’ smear

 

 

More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part one

As we saw in an earlier post the PLO’s Saeb Erekat was provided with a sympathetic BBC Radio 4 platform three days after the Palestinian Authority envoy in London gave a briefing to BBC journalists.

Erekat also appeared in an item over eight minutes long billed “Newshour speaks to one of the most senior and long serving Palestinian officials” (from 30:05 here) aired on the same day – June 20th – on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ presented by Razia Iqbal.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “The most intractable of conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians has been on the Trump administration’s agenda since Mr Trump went into the White House. His son-in-law Jared Kushner has been tasked to come up with what Mr Trump has dubbed ‘the deal of the century’. As part of that peace plan the US is hosting an economic summit in Bahrain next month – next week in fact. Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia will be present but the Palestinians say they were not consulted and are boycotting the summit. I’ve been speaking to Saeb Erekat who is currently the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and is the chief Palestinian negotiator. I began by asking him why Palestinian officials are boycotting the summit.”

The accuracy of Iqbal’s claim (which frequently crops up in BBC content) concerning the origin of the phrase ‘the deal of the century’ is questionable. Erekat began by recycling a theme he had used in his ‘Today’ programme interview aired earlier in the day.

Erekat: “Today, June 20th, Trump has been [in] office for 28 months. Did you hear the term occupation by any of them? Did you hear the term two states by any of them? Did you hear the term settlements are illegal by any of them? Did you hear Palestinians have the right to determination by any of them? They feel they can dictate a solution on me. In the last speech Jared Kushner gave he said if Palestinians accept what we offer then they are good, they can govern their people. If they don’t accept what we offer, they’re corrupt and they’re not fit to govern.”

Razia Iqbal did not bother to intervene to inform listeners that what Erekat was referring to was an interview rather than a “speech” and that Kushner did not say the things attributed to him by Erekat. Neither did she ask her interviewee how – if as he just alleged, the Trump administration had not used the term two states in 28 months – he managed to agree with them on a two-state solution as he next claimed.

Erekat: “I engaged with them – the Trump administration – in 37 meetings in 2017. We gave every possible chance. We signed agreement. We have an agreed terms of reference – international law, Security Council resolutions – and we agreed on two-state solution. Now what the American administration is doing is destroying these terms of reference, destroying international law, destroying the two-state solution. And they’re telling me – once they finish their negotiations with Netanyahu and the Israeli settlement council which they adopted their plan – ‘come here, boy, we know what’s best for you and if you don’t accept this you’re going to be related to Bin Laden, you’re corrupt and you’re not good to govern Palestinians’.”

That unsupported claim concerning “the Israeli settlement council” went unquestioned by Iqbal just as it did in the Radio 4 interview.

Iqbal: “OK, let’s look at the issue…the allegation of corruption. When you talked about how the Americans are saying that we will look at the Palestinian situation in terms of their needs as opposed to what you want, which is your rights, isn’t it true to say that there is corruption absolutely at the heart of the Palestinian Authority; that there is mismanagement of funds?”

Erekat: “I think that it’s really unfair to say this. I’m not saying that we’re perfect. I’m not saying that we’re not doing mistakes. We’re as normal as you in Britain, as Americans, as anywhere else. But [laughs] take American aid: they have never given us a single dollar directly. They have an agency called United States International Development Agency; they spend their money through it. So do the British and the French and the Germans and the Japanese and anybody else. So do I deserve to have occupation because I am corrupt? Do I deserve to have occupation because I cannot govern myself as Kushner says?”

Failing to clarify that ‘occupation’ was the outcome of attacks launched by Arab states, Iqbal went on to blame the PA’s financial situation in part on “the occupation”.

Iqbal: “It’s not about those two things being correlated. It’s about answering questions of accountability. So if the Palestinian ministers are going to give themselves more than 60% pay rises when the economy of the Palestinian Authority is on its knees, clearly informed by the occupation but also informed by mismanagement.”

Erekat predictably skirted round that issue and went on to make the inaccurate claim that the Oslo Accords included the term ‘two-state solution’ with no correction from Iqbal.

Erekat: “This was a mistake and we do mistakes and this mistake is being corrected but the point is I am under Israeli occupation. I am not independent. I entered a contract with Israel, the PLO – the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the Israeli government – under the auspices of the Americans, the Europeans, the Arab, to achieve the two-state solution. Now we have an American administration that’s saying ‘no – it’s not gonna be two states. Jerusalem is not, can’t be Palestine capital. Palestinians don’t have their actual determination and they must accept this’. And these people…the conflict is political, is about territory, is about narratives. It’s not a religious conflict. Judaism to us as Christian and Muslim Palestinians was never a threat, is not a threat, will never be a threat.”

Failing to provide her worldwide listeners with any examples of the blatant antisemitism that comes regularly from Palestinian officials and the incitement to religious war put out by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, Iqbal asked:

Iqbal: “And are you saying that the Americans are casting it as a religious conflict?”

Erekat: “Absolutely. When the ambassador – so-called ambassador – Friedman says that it’s God who recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and when Pompeo the Secretary of State would say that God sent Trump to save the Jews, they are turning this into a religious conflict and this should be a red line to anyone.”

The BBC itself reported at the time that Mr Pompeo “said it is “possible” that President Donald Trump was sent by God to save Israel from Iran” but Iqbal refrained from challenging Erekat’s claims.

The rest of this interview will be discussed in part two of this post.

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Omission in BBC reporting on Israel and the EU

Using the Eurovision Song Contest as a hook (and tag) another BBC reporter apparently in Tel Aviv for that event – diplomatic correspondent James Landale – published an article titled “Why Israel eyes the EU with distrust” on the BBC News website on May 20th.

Landale also produced an audio version of that report which was aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on May 18th (from 01:48:35 here) and the central messaging of both reports is the same.

“…Israel’s love of Eurovision the competition has also illustrated its more ambiguous attitude to Europe the continent.

If you speak to Israelis, some will tell you how Europe is their biggest trading partner, how they love going on holiday there and of their many ancestral family connections.

Yet many also say they see Europe as a source of anti-Semitism, a place where the Holocaust is becoming less prominent in the minds of a new generation of young people.

And many also see Europe as a source of what they see as unfair criticism for their government’s policies towards Gaza and the West Bank, coupled with a failure to understand Israel’s existential security threat. […]

Many see it as an organisation that has taken sides in their conflict with the Palestinians, others condemn it for providing aid that sometimes ends up in the hands of groups like Hamas, which the EU regards as a terrorist organisation. […]

This sentiment is fanned by Israel’s recently re-elected prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who before Christmas described the EU as “hostile and hypocritical”.”

Among Israelis, readers were told, “[t]here is little attempt…to understand a European political culture that favours liberal democracy and emphasises human and civil rights”.

Landale also informed BBC audiences that:

“European diplomats take some of this criticism with a pinch of salt and say the EU is a “useful whipping boy” for Israel at a time when it is so close to the Trump administration.”

However Landale made no attempt to delve further into how the generalised opinions he presented may have come about. Had he done so, he could have told BBC audiences about an issue that the corporation has long avoided: the fact that the EU has for years carried out illegal construction at sites in Area C.

Under the terms of the Oslo Accords, Area C is of course under Israeli control and that includes planning permission. The status of the area is, according to that EU backed agreement, subject to final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Nevertheless, a European Commission report from September 2014 openly stated that “the European Union and Palestinian Authority are actively promoting planning and construction in Area C, which, if successful, will pave the way for development and expansion of the Palestinian Authority’s control over Area C.”

Another example of such EU activity has come to light in Gush Etzion.

““Over the course of the past two years, activists from the Arab town of Al Khader, backed by P.A. and European Union funding, occupied the ruins of two ancient shomerot  (watchman’s huts) – primitive stone structures used by passing shepherds or farmers as shelter from the elements—that dot the landscape in the Jerusalem and Sataf areas. They renovated these abandoned structures and turned them into homes – and from that point, in very short order, totally new structures have been added in the surrounding area.”

The signs posted on the refurbished buildings, proudly bearing the European Union emblem, explain that the site is an ancient village – Shoshkhalah – despite the fact that aerial photos paint a completely different picture. In the past two years, more than 15 homes have been built in this “village,” each connected to solar power infrastructure and water tanks paid for by the Europeans.

Analysis of aerial photos from 1967, as well as historic maps dating back to 1880, prove that there was never any settlement of any kind at the site.”

Interestingly, while BBC audiences can by now probably recite the corporation’s mantra on Israeli ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ by heart, the repeated appearance of Palestinian/EU constructed outposts under the guise of ‘humanitarian assistance’ is not considered newsworthy – even by a senior BBC correspondent purporting to cast light on Israeli attitudes towards Europe.

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BBC Business ‘forgets’ to clarify that quoted academic is BDS campaigner

An article headlined “How tech is bringing Israelis and Palestinians together” appeared in the ‘features’ sections of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ and ‘Business’ pages on the morning of April 30th. Written by Melissa Jun Rowley, most of the article focuses unremarkably on various “technology partnerships” but some interesting framing is also in evidence.

Paragraph three of the article tells readers that:

“…Israeli-Palestinian relations have been relentlessly grim ever since the foundation of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent Arab-Israeli conflict that has been rumbling on ever since.”

The word subsequent of course means “coming after something in time” but “grim” Israeli-Palestinian relations and the Arab-Israeli conflict of course did not commence following – and as a result of – “the foundation of Israel in 1948” as Rowley’s framing suggests.

Another notable point concerns some of the six images used to illustrate the article. Three of the photographs show people who participate in some of the programmes it features. One is a video first published by the BBC in December 2018. One is an image of torn Palestinian and Israeli flags captioned “In a fractured land, many young people from opposite sides never meet each other”. The final image shows buildings (in Givat Ze’ev, but readers are not given the location) with the caption “Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are one of many contentious issues in the region”.

Interestingly, out of “many contentious issues” the BBC chose to exclusively highlight “Israeli settlements” rather than, say, Palestinian terrorism or the Palestinian refusal to accept the existence the Jewish state.

Rowley’s take-away messaging comes at the end of the article.

“But will such collaborations lead to a stronger economy for the region and potentially a resolution of the conflict?

That remains unlikely, believes Magid Shihade, faculty member at the Institute for International Studies at Birzeit University on the West Bank, while onerous trade restrictions remain in place.

Under the Paris Protocol between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, Palestinians cannot import what they like from abroad and are prevented from developing their own products freely.

“The first step for change is to remove all Israeli restriction in trade, thus letting Palestinian and Israeli businesses collaborate on an equal footing,” says Mr Shihade.

But Israel believes such restrictions are necessary to maintain its security in the troubled region.”

The 1994 Paris Protocol was of course signed by the PLO rather than “the Palestinian Authority” and was incorporated into the Oslo II agreement of 1995. Rowley fails to provide any proper explanation of her dubious claim that “Palestinians cannot import what they like from abroad and are prevented from developing their own products freely” which apparently relates to restrictions on dual-use goods which can be used for terrorism.

Neither does Rowley bother to inform readers that while her quoted ‘authority’ Magid Shihade is not an economist, he is a ‘one-stater’ who co-founded the ‘US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel’ as well as (together with his wife) another pro-BDS group called ‘Pakistanis for Palestine’.

The Paris Protocol is seen by the BDS movement as part of the cooperation with Israel which it rejects and in 2007 PACBI (The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) recommended that the BDS campaign “Build pressure on PA officials for ending normalization with Israel (end security coordination, rescind Paris Protocol on economic cooperation, etc.)”. It therefore comes as no surprise to see BDS campaigner Magid Shihade advocating the annulment of that treaty.

Unfortunately it is equally unsurprising to see the BBC amplifying a position taken by the anti-peace BDS campaign without full disclosure – as required by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality – of the ‘particular viewpoint’ of the sole academic ‘expert’ quoted in this article.  

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