Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2017

As has been the case in previous years (see related articles below), Israel related content produced by the BBC during 2017 frequently included contributions or information sourced from NGOs.

BBC 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, in the vast majority of cases audiences were not informed of the political agenda of the organisations and their representatives promoted in BBC content and on some occasions the connection of an interviewee to a particular NGO was not revealed at all.

For example, an interviewee who was featured on BBC World Service radio at least three times between September 3rd and December 7th (including here and here) was introduced as “a mother of two” from Gaza but audiences were not informed that she works for Oxfam.

Similarly the founder of Ir Amim and Terrestrial Jerusalem was introduced to BBC audiences in February as “an Israeli attorney and specialist on the mapping of Jerusalem” and in June as “an Israeli lawyer specialising in the geo-politics of Jerusalem”.

In September a BBC World Service history show featured an interviewee without mentioning her significant connection to Medical Aid for Palestinians and related anti-Israel activism. In October the same programme featured a sole interviewee whose connections to the NGO Euro-Med Rights were not revealed to audiences.

Interestingly, when BBC radio 5 live recently conducted an interview concerning a UK domestic story with a political activist who was inadequately introduced, the corporation acknowledged that “we should’ve established and made clear on air this contributor was a political activist”. 

On other occasions, while contributors’ connections to NGOs were clarified, the political agenda of the organisations concerned was not.

In October, when an interviewee from the Amos Trust appeared on BBC Radio 4, the NGO was inadequately described as “a Christian organisation working in the West Bank and Gaza” with no mention made of its anti-Israel activities.

A TV debate concerning the BDS campaign that was aired in February included representatives of War on Want and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign with no background information concerning the rich history of anti-Israel campaigning by both those organisations provided to viewers.

In September the BBC World Service interviewed the director of ‘Forward Thinking’ which was described as a “mediation group” while listeners heard no clarification of the relevant issue of the interviewee’s “particular viewpoint” on Hamas.

Audiences also saw cases in which BBC presenters amplified unsubstantiated allegations made by political NGOs during interviews with Israelis. In June, for example, while interviewing Moshe Ya’alon, Stephen Sackur invoked Human Rights Watch and Breaking the Silence.

In November Andrew Marr employed the same tactic during an interview with the Israeli prime minister, amplifying allegations from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International without informing viewers of the political agendas of those NGOs.

BBC audiences also saw Human Rights Watch quoted and promoted in various reports throughout the year including:

BBC promotes political NGO in coverage of Azaria verdict

BBC’s Bateman shoehorns anti-Israel NGO into hi-tech story

Political NGO gets unreserved BBC amplification yet again

Additional NGOs promoted by the BBC without disclosure of their political agenda include Adalah and the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (see here) and UJFP.

Material produced by the UN agency OCHA was promoted in BBC content without that organisation’s political stance being revealed and audiences saw a partisan map credited to UNOCHA and B’tselem used on numerous occasions throughout the year.

The political NGO Peace Now was frequently quoted and promoted (including links to its website) in reports concerning Israeli construction plans – see for example here, here and here – as well as in an amended backgrounder on the subject of ‘settlements’.

In April the BBC News website described Breaking the Silence and B’tselem as “human rights activists” without fully informing audiences of their records and political agenda.

B’tselem was by far the BBC’s most promoted NGO in 2017 with politically partisan maps it is credited as having produced either together with UNOCHA or on its own appearing in dozens of BBC News website reports and articles throughout the year, including the BBC’s backgrounder on ‘settlements’.

Mapping the BBC’s use of partisan maps

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

BBC Watch prompts amendment to inaccurate BBC map

BBC audiences were on no occasion informed that the organisation from which that map is sourced engages in lawfare against Israel and is a member of a coalition of NGOs supporting BDS.

The NGOs quoted, promoted and interviewed by the BBC come from one side of the spectrum as far as their political approach to Israel is concerned and some of them are even active in legal and propaganda campaigns against Israel. Yet the BBC serially fails to meet its own editorial guidelines by clarifying their “particular viewpoint” and – as in previous years – in 2017 audiences hence remained unaware of the fact that the homogeneous information they are receiving about Israel is consistently unbalanced.

Related Articles:

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2014

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2015

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2016

BBC bases rejection of complaint on word of anti-Israel NGOs


The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part one

On September 17th the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ devoted over a third of its one hour of airtime to its lead story – billed “Hope for Unity in Palestinian Territories”.

“Hamas, who govern the Gaza strip, have agreed to steps towards ending a long feud with their rivals Fatah who govern the West Bank.”

Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item (from 00:11 here) with an odd portrayal of the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council election as relating to the Gaza Strip only.

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

“And we’re going to start with a long-awaited and potentially significant political gesture in the Middle East. It’s not directly related to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians but to the internal Palestinian struggle which has a bearing on the hopes for peace. It’s a gesture that comes from Hamas; the Palestinian faction that won control of the Gaza Strip from its rival Fatah in an election in 2006 and took full control of Gaza by force a year later. Well Hamas is still considered a banned terrorist organisation in many parts of the world and its presided over a decade of increasing desperation for its citizens. Gaza is subject to a blockade by Israel and Egypt and in recent months its citizens have faced an extra squeeze with the reduction of their electricity supply. But now, in talks presided over by Egypt, Hamas has agreed to dissolve the administration in Gaza with a view to holding a future election. We’ll discuss what lies behind that decision and what it might lead to in just a moment but first, a reminder of what daily life is like in Gaza. Najla is a mother of two young children. She was born in Gaza and has lived there all her life and she spoke to Newshour last month.”

Listeners then heard an edited version of the long monologue from the inadequately introduced Oxfam employee Najla Shawa that BBC World Service listeners had already heard on September 3rd. Repeating her claim that the Gaza Strip is “a big prison”, Shawa added to Coomarasamy’s misleading and inaccurate implied linkage between the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip and Israeli counter-terrorism measures in the form of border controls.

Next Coomarasamy introduced Yolande Knell who presented a factual picture of the Hamas announcement previously described by him as a “gesture” – although listeners may have been surprised to hear Knell describe “the administrative committee it [Hamas] set up in March” as “really controversial” given that the BBC has not previously reported on that topic.

Following an account of Egypt’s role in the appearance of Hamas’ announcement, Knell gave an accurate portrayal of some of the methods used by Mahmoud Abbas to pressure Hamas.

“Well some people are quite surprised that they [Hamas] have made these concessions, as they’re seen, particularly for example getting rid of this administrative committee. Previously it had said that it wouldn’t take these kinds of steps until the Palestinian Authority lifted some of the measures that it’s imposed upon Gaza in recent months because we’ve really seen this political divide between Hamas and Fatah deepening recently with President Abbas trying to pile on the political pressure and now you have only four hours on, sixteen hours off when it comes to mains electricity in Gaza. There’s been a longtime energy shortage but it’s got much worse because the PA put up a fuel tax for the sole power plant in Gaza. Then it instructed Israel to reduce mains electricity that it provides to Gaza. This is having effects on hospitals, on waste water management, with sewage being pumped into the sea and it’s also having a big economic effect. It also slashed the salaries for civil servants – PA civil servants – who were still receiving their salaries in Gaza.”

Although Knell has produced one reasonable report on the topic of the Gaza electricity crisis in the past, for the most part content on that topic produced by her and other BBC journalists has encouraged audiences to mistakenly believe that there is a connection between that crisis and Israel.

Coomarasamy then introduced “a view from Fatah” given by Abbas’ advisor Nabil Shaath. However, when Shaath stated that “many of us have some hesitation about the degree to which Hamas will be willing to go to the details”, he failed to question him further, passing up the opportunity to enhance listener understanding of the potential pitfalls that have dogged previous ‘unity’ agreements.

Shaath’s propagandist portrayal of Israel’s government as “colonialist” did not prompt comment or challenge from Coomarasamy.

Shaath: “I do not see how we can face Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing settler colonialist government and we cannot really make use of any potential changes in the world if we are not united.”

BBC audiences used to hearing from journalists and Palestinian commentators alike that Israel is responsible for the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip may well have been surprised by Shaath’s admission of Hamas responsibility for the situation of the people of Gaza.

Shaath: “…Hamas has done much worse. Hamas destroyed their opportunities. Hamas subjected them to risks that they couldn’t take. Hamas led them into a life of isolation…”

Following his conversation with Shaath, Coomarasamy returned to Yolande Knell and – in contrast to the BBC’s written report on the topic – listeners were told of some of the factors that will affect any ‘unity deal’.

Knell: “The devil now I think is in the detail with what happens. We’ve seen this when previous arrangements have broken down. Who are going to be the key players in a national unity government? What’s going to happen about managing the border crossings? Will PA security forces be allowed to function in Gaza once again? What will happen then to the Hamas security forces – which is what you see on the street at the moment doing everything from…eh….controlling traffic.”

Listeners also heard a very rare acknowledgement of the reason for the collapse of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in 2014: an outcome portrayed at the time by the BBC’s Middle East editor as being entirely attributable to Israel.

“Israel of course views Hamas as a terrorist group, as does the US, the EU and others. And we’ve had some Israeli commentators pointing out how this actually makes things very difficult for Mr Abbas because when there was a national unity government agreed more than three years ago, this was a trigger for the failure of the last round of peace talks.”

Knell did however come up with some bizarre spin on the fact that the PA president – whose elected term expired in January 2009 – has no control over – or presence in – part of the territory he supposedly heads.

Knell: “…Israel always accuses Mr Abbas of not representing all the Palestinian people; of being weak in a way.”

Although listeners did hear some important information in this item that has long been absent from BBC coverage, one aspect of the story ignored throughout the discussions on the topic of the reasons behind Hamas’ announcement is that of the public unrest that apparently prompted Hamas to make a large purchase of fuel earlier this month. As the Times of Israel’s analyst noted

“[Hamas leader] Haniyeh understands that, with little hope on the horizon, the severe economic crisis in Gaza can end in one of two ways: war with Israel, which could decimate the movement’s leadership and turn the population against it, or a “Gaza Spring” that would have similar results.

The best he can do under the circumstances is compromise, even if others say he caved in.”

The second item in this programme relating to the same topic will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns 



Revisiting the BBC’s amplification of an NGO’s PR

The Guardian reports that the head of Oxfam GB has described the NGO’s 2014 campaign against the Israeli company SodaStream as having ‘backfired’.

“In a candid presentation to an audience of charity professionals on 14 December, Goldring said Oxfam had made high-stakes misjudgments […] in the row over the involvement of its then celebrity ambassador, Scarlett Johansson with a company operating in an Israeli settlement on the West Bank.

The Johansson furore had cost Oxfam America “literally thousands” of donors, Goldring revealed. […]

In the Johansson case, after a protracted stand-off, the actor ended her eight-year association with Oxfam over its criticism of her for endorsing fizzy drinks company SodaStream, which at the time had a factory in an Israeli settlement.

Goldring […] told a seminar on campaigning for less popular causes that in mishandling the Johansson affair, Oxfam turned what should have been a point of principle into “something of a PR disaster”.

Oxfam’s error, said Goldring, was letting the controversy drag on so that Johansson could eventually seize the initiative. “The judgment was when to be proactive, when to be forceful, and when to be balanced and reflective,” he said. “We got that wrong.”Today Connolly

As readers may recall, the BBC also played a very “proactive” role at the time, promoting Oxfam’s PR messaging (together with that of fellow BDS campaigners, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign) on a variety of platforms including the BBC News website, BBC Radio 4 and BBC television channels.

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

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

BBC displays its campaigning colours in SodaStream story coverage 

Oxfam’s Ben Phillips on BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’

BBC One serves up BDS at Breakfast

As was noted here at the time:

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



BBC WS’s ‘Newshour’ exploits Pope’s canonizations for promotion of propaganda

BBC coverage of the Pope’s recent canonization of four nineteenth century nuns has focused exclusively on the two who were born in places which were at the time part of the Ottoman Empire: Jerusalem in the Mutassariflik of Jerusalem and Ibillin in the Acco (Acre) Sanjak. The Ottomans of course did not recognize ‘Palestine’ as a separate entity but divided the Levant into provinces, governorates and districts.

On May 17th the BBC devoted two written articles and two items in radio broadcasts to the story.

Vatican boost for Christians in Holy Land” – Yolande Knell, BBC News website

Pope Francis canonises two Palestinian nuns” – BBC News website

‘Newshour’ – “Palestinian nuns become saints” – Julian Marshall, BBC World Service radio (from 00:32)

Sunday‘ – Edward Stourton with Fr David Neuhaus, BBC Radio 4 (from 00:57)

All those items include an element of politicization of the topic by means of promotion of two women who would have been extremely unlikely to self-define as Palestinians as “Palestinian nuns”.

An idea of the aims of such politicization of what is, after all, an event of religious significance can be gleaned from an article published by the Palestinian news agency Ma’an.

“Rifaat Kassis, a prominent political community activist and coordinator of Kairos, a local Christian group, says the canonization is significant on many levels, notwithstanding the recognition that Palestinians under Ottoman rule were part of a diverse, productive society, contrary to the mainstream sidelining of Palestinians from the region’s history.

“This puts Palestine on the map, among not only the catholic world, but the whole world, and I think this will also help people to understand Palestine and the occupation,” he told Ma’an.” [emphasis added]Newshour nuns

Not content with the geographical politicization of the topic, the ‘Newshour’ item went even further and a report supposedly about the canonization of two nuns quickly became a platform for the promotion of political propaganda when presenter Julian Marshall brought into the conversation Oliver McTernan of the Hamas-supporting ‘Forward Thinking’ and a Palestinian Christian from Beit Sahour named only as Ghassan Bannoura who appears to have worked variously for Oxfam GB, and the IMEMC media arm of the ISM-linked Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People.

McTernan: “I think to the broader Palestinian public it’s the rebuilding of Gaza, the unity of Palestine: terribly important.”

Bannoura: “Well of course living under occupation, the war-torn Gaza strip needs rebuilding of course – that is very important and we should, you know, be focusing on rebuilding Gaza, ending the occupation in the West Bank, stopping the settlements that eating our resources in the West Bank, make it impossible to build any kind of future state in the Holy Land.”

Bannoura: “We can’t get to Jerusalem not because of the Palestinian Authority – our own government and our own police. We can’t get to Jerusalem because of the Israeli occupation and the wall that surrounds the city.”

Clearly the editorial consideration behind the running of this item was not only to inform listeners worldwide of the life and times of the Catholic Church’s new saints. 

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part two

After the undisguised political monologue from Lyse Doucet which opened the item concerning reconstruction in the Gaza Strip featured in the February 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ (available here from 26:30 for a limited period of time), listeners heard presenter Chloe Tilley say:WHYS 26 2 15

“I want to bring in Najla who’s an aid worker and a blogger in Gaza City and is on the line now.”

No further introduction was given – not even a surname – and so listeners were not able to put the contribution of Najla Shawa (now working for Oxfam and previously an UNRWA employee) into its appropriate context, including her endorsement of Doucet’s previous inaccurate and context-free statements. Shawa also made plenty of context-free statements of her own, with no attempt from Chloe Tilley to rectify that problem.

“…ordinary people […] suffer daily problems such as power cuts, fuel, cooking gas for heating, for cooking…”

“We’re totally locked in – we can’t travel, we can’t leave. We’re just simply locked in a place that is being more and more problematic each day.”

“…having like tons of explosives being hit around your house, this is not something that ordinary people should go through. [….] people are traumatised – specially children – and all the mothers I know – the families, my friends – they suffer with their babies, with their kids; even the older ones – the children and the teenagers – from the effects of such traumatic events.”

As we see, Hamas and its terrorism had no place in the picture presented by this BBC selected guest. Doucet then came in again (33:56):WHYS Gaza facebook

“Coincidentally, I’ve just come out of a studio where we finished a recording for an hour-long documentary that we’ve just finished on children of the Gaza war where for the last nine months we’ve been following the children through the war, after the war and what’s happening to them. And it’s heart-breaking that, you know, a vast majority of Gazan children have seen loved ones dying before their eyes. They’ve seen their homes destroyed. They can’t make sense of why this war has anything to do with them. And as Najla just says, who cares for those who need care? Fathers are traumatised, mothers are traumatised. Even people who lead Gaza’s main trauma counselling centres have lost dozens of family members. Its…the whole of Gaza in some way is in a state of trauma. Notwithstanding that, I have to say after having again spent time there, as you know Gazans don’t lose their sense of hospitality. They don’t lose their sense of humanity. It’s very humbling to see how they survive but now they’re saying….even the people of Gaza – as resilient as they are – are beginning to break. Going mad, one man said to me. How do you possibly cope with this? They call it the world’s biggest prison and it does feel that for people there. And Najla mentioned the young people and there was…I spoke to a university student who studied English Literature – now if that is not a statement of hope and trying to be engaged with the world – and I said to her ‘do some of your friends discuss taking the risky path of going on a boat, trying to cross to Europe’, because we are seeing Gazans appearing on these boats. They’re smuggled out to Egypt or Libya. And she said ‘yes, they’re doing it’. She used this expression: she said ‘from dead to dead’. There’s no exit from Gaza and the only exit is one which has a very, very, very high risk that you may not survive.” [emphasis added]

According to the CIA World Fact Book there were some 753,000 children aged between 0 -14 in the Gaza Strip in July 2014. Doucet failed to provide any factual evidence for her unsourced claim that the “vast majority” of those children “have seen loved ones dying before their eyes” and “their homes destroyed”. Likewise, her egregious promotion of the “world’s biggest prison” trope and the notion that “there’s no exit from Gaza” is contradicted by the fact that 8,708 Gazans used the Erez crossing to exit the Gaza Strip in January 2015 alone.

The programme’s next guest was the controversial UNRWA spokesman (and former BBC employee) Chris Gunness .

“Let me introduce Chris Gunness who’s from the UN Relief and Works Agency. Chris, I know you’ve written so much about this and you’ve written an article in the Guardian as well – we’ll Tweet out a link to it for people who haven’t seen it. Ehm…your thoughts on what’s happening in Gaza and why – why it seems that all these pledges of money don’t seem to be materialising.”

Indeed that article was promoted by the BBC on Twitter and Gunness repeated some of the same themes in his contribution to this programme after having clarified his place in the very cosy echo chamber.WHYS Gaza tweets Gunness

“Well first of all, one important point to make I think – and I entirely endorse what Lyse and Najla have so brilliantly said – is that this is man-made. These things which the last two speakers have described are the result of deliberate political choices which the world community is making. We have chosen to allow huge swathes of Gaza to be destroyed because, you know, security guarantees – if there’d been proper engagement with Gaza – could have been in place because what Gaza desperately needs is political engagement. […] So first of all it’s a direct result of political choices and we have to make different political choices.”

In other words, Gunness would have BBC audiences worldwide believe that the international community is responsible for the situation in the Gaza Strip rather than the terrorist organisations which initiated the last war and the previous ones. After long, emotive, context-free descriptions of the situation in the Gaza Strip rivalled only by those in Doucet’s introduction, he went on to rubber stamp more of her context-free sound bites:

“I mean not only is Gaza unique in the annals of contemporary warfare in being a…a war zone with a fence around it – there is nowhere safe to flee – but even within Gaza the international community has failed to provide people with adequate standards of housing.”

After Gunness’ portrayal of the failure of donors to meet the pledges made at last year’s Cairo conference and his own organisation’s activities, Tilley introduced another contributor – Nuraddin Biladi [phonetic] – described as “associate professor at the College of Arts and Sciences at Qatar University”.

Relating to the question of why his country had not met its financial pledge to the reconstruction of Gaza, Biladi noted that donors were “outstretched” due to the numbers of refugees from Syria and Iraq and also cited the issue of ISIS as having affected the policy makers in the Middle East, Europe and the US.

After an interjection from Lyse Doucet, listeners heard Chris Gunness (44:05) make the following bizarre claims:

“It’s interesting hearing Nuraddin talk about ISIS. I was told by a good source that in an area where ISIS is actually minting money, believe it or not, on one side of the coin is the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. And another interesting vignette: on the mobile phone of one of the kids that were arrested in Paris recently – a Muslim child – was a speech of Yasser Arafat. And I guess that’s by way of saying that, you know, we have been thinking about extremism in this region – out there in Afghanistan, out there in Pakistan. The fact is that having a deeply marginalised Muslim Arab community is becoming a cause celebre also. So the idea that there’s this extremist element out there somewhere and Gaza is something different: it isn’t like that. So these moderate Arab countries and other Arab countries to which Lyse refers have to realise that what is…they’re allowing to happen in Gaza is having a direct impact on the rising tide of extremism which they’re so concerned about. So don’t see Gaza as an isolated factor. Don’t see it as something which is simply sort of there: it is very much part and parcel of the narrative of extremism and the rising tide of extremism that is, you know, so prevalent and so shocking today in the Middle East.”

Yes, dear readers: the BBC World Service actually did broadcast Chris Gunness’ transparent attempt to portray Israel and Israeli self-defence against Palestinian terrorism as the root cause of Jihadist extremism throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Ironically, the next segment of the programme involved Gunness making repeated declarations about UNRWA’s ‘neutrality’ which he claimed “we take […] extremely seriously”. Gunness claimed that “no-one has ever produced any evidence whatsoever” that building materials intended for UNRWA have been commandeered by terrorist organisations but neither Doucet nor Tilley asked him to comment on the documented evidence of building materials supposedly safeguarded by the UN supervised mechanism being sold on the black market in Gaza.  

Gunness’ political campaigning then shifted to an old theme he has promoted via the BBC World Service on at least one previous occasion.

“….what is the morning after strategy – not just for moderate Arab states but also for Western governments who are spending tax-payers’ money, if it ever comes through – to rebuild Gaza? Are there any security guarantees that Gaza will not be destroyed again? I mean it’s been….we’ve seen the destruct….as Lyse said, children of the age of six have seen three such rounds of destruction. And, you know, what is the point also of reconstructing a society which you don’t allow to trade?”

Again, neither Doucet nor Tilley made any effort to correct the misleading impression given to listeners by Gunness by informing them that exports are in fact transported out of the Gaza Strip. In January 2015, for example, 804 tons of merchandise left the Gaza Strip.

The final guest on this programme was introduced by Chloe Tilley only as “Belal who is a doctor in Gaza City”. Belal Dabour – who works at Shifa hospital – was also interviewed by the BBC World Service during last summer’s conflict and promoted the notion of a ‘massacre’ in Shuja’iya. Like many of his colleagues, Dabour finds as much time for political activity as he does for medicine but listeners to this programme were not informed of that fact before they heard the ‘neutral’ doctor claim that:WHYS Gaza tweets doctor

“…the Israeli policy is to impact a cumulative effect on both the…on the population, on the economy, on the overall situation in Gaza which will be after period – after many wars – which would bring us to the verge of collapse…”

If the aim of this programme had been to inform listeners worldwide about the real reasons for the slow pace of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip then obviously it would have failed miserably. But that outcome was of course entirely predictable, with the choice of three guests (two of whom were inadequately identified) all subscribing to the same politically motivated point of view together with the heavily featured context-free propaganda from Lyse Doucet ensuring that the emotion-laden take-away message absorbed by audiences contributed little to their understanding of the background to the situation as it stands today.

It is therefore not difficult to determine that the provision of accurate and impartial information to which the BBC is supposedly committed was trumped by the opportunistic use of half an hour of this programme to promote a particular political narrative. The BBC clearly needs to explain to licence fee payers why that is the case. 


BBC amends article on DEC Gaza appeal concerns

On August 15th the BBC News website featured an article titled “Jewish Chronicle apologises after running Gaza appeal advert” on its UK page and also, curiously, on its Middle East page. JC art

“The Jewish Chronicle has apologised to readers who complained after it ran an advert for the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Gaza crisis appeal.

The weekly newspaper said running the advert was “meant as a purely humanitarian gesture”. […]

Writing on the JC website, editor Stephen Pollard said: “It is a critical part of our editorial independence that we do not allow advertisers to have any influence at all on the paper.” “

The BBC’s article once again cites casualty figures which it has not been independently verified and with no attempt made to advise readers with regard to the sources of those figures and the political agenda of the NGOs which contribute them.

“About 2,000 people have died since the fighting began last month.

Those killed include more than 1,900 Palestinians, mostly civilians, according to the United Nations. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers have been killed in the violence and three civilians in Israel have also died.”

The report concludes as follows:

“In a statement on the DEC’s website on Thursday, addressing the “tone of the debate over Gaza”, chief executive Saleh Saeed said: “The DEC’s launch of a public appeal in response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has been wrongly interpreted in some quarters as a political statement.

“It is nothing of the sort. Giving aid is not taking sides.” “

However despite quoting that statement, the article makes no attempt to inform readers that several of the organisations which make up the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) do indeed have a history of using their charitable status for anti-Israel political campaigning – among them Oxfam, Christian Aid, World Vision and Save the Children.

Moreover, the original version of the  BBC’s report failed to inform readers of concerns raised with regard to the destination of contributions made to the appeal in light of the fact that another DEC member organization – Islamic Relief – has known ties to Hamas, as Saleh Saeed is no doubt well aware seeing as he was employed by that charity until 2012.

The day after its original appearance the article was amended (without any notification to readers) to include the following:

“Meanwhile, Israel’s embassy in the UK issued a statement in which it said its own concern about the DEC appeal “stems from the fact that the list of charities on the DEC includes Islamic Relief Worldwide, which has been designated in Israel recently as an unlawful association, for providing support and funnelling [sic] funds to Hamas, a terror group designated in the UK.

“Surely this must raise cause for concern for the public donating money for children, when one of the donors has been officially declared to be using that money to support a recognized terror group,” it said.”

As that statement points out, in June 2014 Islamic Relief was banned from operating in Israel.

“Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon signed a decree on Thursday banning Islamic Relief Worldwide from operating in Israel.

Israel believes IRW, which markets itself as a charitable agency that solicits donations from all over the world, funnels cash to Hamas.

Ya’alon’s ban was decided upon after the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), the coordinator for government activities in the territories, and legal authorities provided incriminating information against IRW. 

The organization has representatives worldwide, including Australia, the United States, and Britain, where it is headquartered. Some of their local branches in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria are run by Hamas operatives.”

One of Hamas’ numerous charitable organisations operating in the Gaza Strip, for example, is Al Falah Benevolent Society which has been the recipient of funds from Islamic Relief in the past. Islamic Relief was one of the founding members of the ‘Union of Good’ – the Muslim Brotherhood’s financial support operation for Hamas founded shortly after the start of the second Intifada in 2000 and headed by Yousuf Qaradawi – which was designated by the US Department of the Treasury in 2008.

The amended version of the BBC’s report also includes a response from Islamic Relief:

“In response, Islamic Relief Worldwide said it “categorically denies any links with Hamas”.

It added: “Islamic Relief Worldwide is regulated in the UK by the Charity Commission and has rigorous internal control and compliance systems in place to ensure we uphold our humanitarian principles of impartiality, independence and neutrality.” “

Unfortunately, Charity Commission regulation is by no means a cast iron guarantee of the absence of ties to terrorist organisations and extremism – as the case of Interpal so miserably demonstrates

Despite the fact that it is difficult to see how the issue of “public confidence in the BBC’s impartiality” can possibly have changed since 2009, the BBC decided to promote this DEC appeal across its own platforms. Given also that UK tax payers will be contributing to it whether they see fit or not, members of the BBC’s funding public might be of the opinion that the political motivations and possible Hamas connections of some DEC member organisations would be an issue in which BBC journalists should be showing more of an interest. 

The BBC, the British Council and BDS: what Simon Cox didn’t report

The February 13th edition of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ – broadcast both on Radio 4 and on the BBC World Service – was titled “Come to Sunny Gaza!”.

FOOC 13 2

The programme can be heard here (with the relevant section beginning at about 22:48) or here. A written version of the same report by Simon Cox also appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Discovering Gazans’ resilient side“. Simon Cox art

Listeners to the audio version may well have been quite bowled over by the fact that presenter Kate Adie actually mentioned the escalation in missile fire from the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the year in her introduction to the item and also by the fact that Cox does not stick entirely to the ‘Gaza doom and gloom’ route so well-trodden by herds of BBC correspondents before him.

All the same, he offers no context or explanation for statements such as:

“I had come prepared for trouble, with a flak jacket and helmet, driven from the border with Israel in an armour-plated car past a plethora of grey breeze block structures, unfinished due to a lack of cement.” [emphasis added]


“Rawan, my young translator, explained how the electricity was only on for eight hours a day so work, shopping, everything had to be crammed into this brief window.” [emphasis added]


“You need this kind of ingenuity when half the population is unemployed.” [emphasis added]

In fact, the PCBS cites an unemployment rate of 31.0% – not 50% as Cox claims – during the first quarter of 2013 and of course that is influenced by the fact that only 17.1% of women participate in the labour force.

But the less obvious (and much more interesting) aspect of this report – which Simon Cox does not seem too keen to expand upon – is the one reflected in this paragraph:

“I was not here to report, but to train a group of journalists from Alwan radio for a weekly programme they had been making with other stations in the West Bank as part of a wider BBC and British Council project.”

BBC audiences might at this point have been interested in some context regarding the media scene in the Gaza Strip post the 2007 violent coup carried out by Hamas. The fact that media outlets associated with political and terrorist groups other than Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad were quickly forced to close down, revise their content or relocate is, after all, a relevant factor – particularly perhaps for audience members who fund both the BBC and the registered charity the British Council via Foreign Office grant-in aid funding.

“The majority of media outlets in Palestine are based in the Gaza Strip. Since June 2007, Hamas loyalists have either shut down or assumed control of these outlets. As of August 2007, only two TV stations are currently available: Hamas’s Al Aqsa and the Islamic Jihad’s Sawt Al Aqsa, and two radio stations: Al Qur-an Al-Kareem which is run by Hamas’ Religious Affairs ministry, and Radio Alwan which is considered a pro-Hamas station.” [emphasis added]

In other words, only media organisations run or tolerated by Hamas can operate.

“Today [Ed. – August 2007] there are seven radio stations broadcasting from the Gaza Strip, most of them affiliated with Hamas and Islamists: Hamas’ Radio Al-Aqsa, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Radio Al-Quds, four independent stations (Sawt al-Iman (The Voice of Faith), Radio al-Manar, Radio ‘Alwan and the entertainment station, FM-Gaza). They all broadcast, as does Radio al-Qur’an al-Karim, which belongs to the Palestinian ministry of Islamic endowments.” [emphasis added]

Radio Alwan does not however confine itself to being on the receiving end of training projects provided by benevolent foreign organisations. Recently it ran a training project of its own in collaboration with an organisation called iPal

iPal fb Alwan

And what is iPal’s raison d’etre? Well we can learn more about that via the Anna Lindh Foundation website where, in among the jargon and buzz words and in addition to “collaboration with Alwan Radio” and “collaboration” with the Hamas supporting organisation Islamic Relief which Israel designated in 2006, we find the following among iPal’s stated activities:

“BDS Movement: building workshops about the BDS as an introduction for the youth in Gaza to let them know more about this campaign and the importance of it and how it plays an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for Justice and also to get them a part in some BDS activities in Gaza.”

iPal’s “coordinator in Gaza” Abeer Abu Shawish also works for the Arab Centre for Agricultural Development (ACAD) and in November 2013 she was to be found organizing on its behalf “a conference on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid, colonization and occupation” at which “Zaid Shuabi, outreach officer of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), gave a report by Skype from the West Bank.”.

However, Radio Alwan is far from being the sole organization with British Council and BBC links which directly or indirectly supports and promotes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement which aims to delegitimize Israel into extinction

As we noted here only recently, the British Council has a “partnership” with the BDS supporting ‘Palestine Festival of Literature’ – or PalFest. Among the British Council’s partners in Israel is the Mossawa Centre and among its partners in the Palestinian controlled territories are the Maan Development Centre, Miftah and Palestinian Vision which employs a media spokesman who is a veteran of the BDS campaign and in its 2010 annual report (scroll down for English) noted inter alia that its activities include the organization of quiz nights with the theme “Judaizing of names in the city” [Jerusalem] and included the illustration below. Palestinian Vision 2010 report

In addition to Miftah and ‘Palestinian Vision’, the British Council’s partners in its ‘Tajaawob‘ project include Oxfam and the BBC’s own charity ‘BBC Media Action’ which gets over 40% of its funding from departments of the British government.

The same British government claims that it does not support the BDS movement.

“In correspondence with NGO Monitor, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) stated: “The UK Government does not support the BDS movement,” and “we have been very clear that the boycotts movement is not productive… it could be deeply corrosive.” “

However, the same government department which wrote those words funds both the British Council and departments of the BBC which do partner organisations that directly or indirectly oppose a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and work towards the elimination of the Jewish state. 

Isn’t it odd that the BBC’s “investigative journalist” Simon Cox should have missed all that? After all, UK-based members of the BBC’s audience might like to be enlightened as to what lies behind some of the projects and organisations which their taxes and obligatory payments are actually funding.

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Oxfam’s Ben Phillips on BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’

On February 4th BBC Two’s flagship news programme ‘Newsnight’ featured interviews with Oxfam’s Director of Policy Ben Phillips and the CEO of SodaStream, Daniel Birnbaum. 

Viewers were no doubt amazed by the disingenuous performance given by a senior employee of a multi-million pound charity which gets a considerable amount of public money via funding from various governments, including the UK, an additional income from the EU and the UN (see section 8 here). 

The interview is introduced by presenter Jeremy Paxman.

JP: “Well with us now is Ben Phillips, the Director of Policy for Oxfam. Ahm..if these Palestinians are being well paid and being paid the same as their Israeli compatriots  or, sorry, their Israeli colleagues, ahm…what’s wrong?”

Ben Phillips: “Our criticism is not of SodaStream’s labour conditions. The issue is is [sic] that factory doesn’t belong to Israel. It doesn’t belong to SodaStream. It belongs to the people who own that land, who were thrown off that land in order that settlements can be built.”

As is the case in the rest of the world, the fact is that the SodaStream factory of course belongs to the people who invested money to build and operate it, so Phillips’ assertion is obviously ridiculous. As for his claim that people “were thrown off that land”, he of course provides no factual evidence for his slur. In fact, even the campaigning NGO ‘Peace Now’ was forced to retract claims made in 2006 (which, incidentally, remain on the BBC News website without any correction) that Ma’ale Adumim – the community adjacent to the Mishor Adumim industrial park where the SodaStream plant is situated – was established on land of which over 86% was owned by Palestinians and to reduce its claim to 0.5%. Phillips continues:

“This isn’t about soda and it’s not about celebrities; it’s about settlements. The settlements impoverish the Palestinians and if I said to you, Jeremy, that I’ve taken your house but now you can have a job – now I’ve turned it into a hotel – as a porter, that wouldn’t be enough. So the issue is settlements. Settlements hurt Palestinians.” 

Phillips of course neglects to mention that the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics reported in 2013 that some 20,000 Palestinians employed in communities in Judea & Samaria received more than double the salaries paid by Palestinian employers.

JP: “So if this factory were inside Israel there would be no problem for you.”

BP:” Oxfam doesn’t support the boycott against Israel. We’ve been very, very clear about that. This factory and the settlements are not in Israel. That’s the position of international law and the settlements hurt Palestinians.”

Not only does Jeremy Paxman fail to inform viewers that there are many different interpretations of the “international law” invoked by Phillips, but he then goes on to further mislead them by describing the 1949 Armistice lines as borders, in contravention of the BBC’s own guidelines on the subject.

JP: “So if it was inside the pre-’67 borders – Israeli borders – you wouldn’t have a problem.”

BP: “We’ve never called for a boycott of Israel.”

Phillips apparently hopes that viewers will have forgotten Oxfam’s Belgian branch’s anti-Israel poster of 2003 (later withdrawn) which urged the public “n’achetez pas de fruits et legumes israeliens” (do not buy Israeli fruits and vegetables).  Perhaps too he counts on the fact that audiences will not recall Oxfam’s treatment of Kristin Davis back in 2009. 

He also apparently relies on the public’s not knowing that a major Oxfam partner – Zaytoun – which markets produce sold in Oxfam shops around the UK, was founded by activists from the International Solidarity Movement and that one of those founders and Zaytoun director, Atif Choudhury, is also a member of the ‘council of management of War on Want which is part of the BDS movement.

And obviously Mr Phillips is not keen to disclose to viewers that Oxfam’s Dutch affiliate generously funds organisations involved in the BDS movement and in the delegitimisation of Israel or that Oxfam GB has also donated to the BDS supporting ‘Coalition of Women for Peace’ and the controversial NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’.

Paxman continues:

“You’re not quite answering the question.”

BP: “There would be no problem, there would be no issue.”

JP: “So what could SodaStream do to comply with your…to meet your objection?”

BP: “They could fulfill international law and not be in illegal settlements: not be in someone else’s territory.”

Again, no clue is provided to viewers regarding the fact that other interpretations of “international law” and the legal status of communities in Area C exist.

JP: “So they have to shut the factory down?”

BP: “If you meet the people that live outside of the settlements, the people that are close to the settlements, they can’t get permits for building. They can be thrown out of their homes. Hundred people had their homes…eh…taken away from their homes last month – just last month. So settlements are hurting people across the West Bank.”

Phillips clearly tries to establish a link between the existence of Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and building permits. There is of course absolutely no connection between the two. He fails to make it clear that 97% of the Palestinian population lives under the authority of the PA in Areas A & B and that the remaining 3% (90 thousand) living in Area C can apply to the Civil Administration for planning permission and building permits. Phillips’ unsourced claim of people being “thrown out of their homes” is apparently a euphemistic way of describing demolition orders issued for illegally constructed buildings. One of course wonders if his description of the demolition of a structure built without planning permission in the UK would be equally euphemistic.

Paxman continues:

“Well that’s not SodaStream’s business taking away people’s houses, is it?”

BP: “We’re not here to criticize SodaStream. We’re here to focus on the settlements and the harm they….”

JP: “But it’s SodaStream which has brought this to a head, as you know. Ehh…so there really is nothing that SodaStream could do to meet your objections, bar shutting down the factory and locating somewhere else.”

BP: “They should not be in the settlements which are illegal. No company should be in the settlements which are illegal. In fact the settlements need to go because they hurt the Palestinians, they impoverish them. They make it harder to get access to water, to land, to housing. It’s damaging for the Palestinian people.”

Obviously the Policy Director of this ‘anti-poverty’ charity is not only completely disinterested in the prosperity of the Palestinians working at SodaStream and similar industrial and commercial enterprises, but is equally unconcerned about taking away the livelihoods of the people who live in the communities he claims “need to go”, although notably he never actually mentions the fact that there are any human beings living in the ‘settlements’ he so derides. 

As readers are most probably aware, the issue of “access to water” is laid out under the terms of the Oslo Accords and communities in Judea & Samaria have absolutely no bearing on that issue, but again Jeremy Paxman makes no effort whatsoever to correct the deliberately misleading impression given to audiences by Phillips.

JP: “I wonder if you have any qualms at all about what seems to some people to be the bullying of Scarlett Johansson?”

BP: “I think Scarlett Johansson did excellent work for Oxfam. I have absolutely no criticisms of Scarlett Johansson.”

JP: “Why couldn’t she continue being an Oxfam representative then and do her commercials for SodaStream?”

BP: “Scarlett Johansson resigned from Oxfam. Oxfam’s made its position very clear on the settlements. The settlements hurt Palestinian people.”

The programme then cuts to an interview with SodaStream’s CEO Daniel Birnbaum, during which Jeremy Paxman poses the historically illiterate question:

“How do you feel about being part of the occupation of territories seized from another country?”

Later, at 6:13, Phillips is reintroduced into the interview.

BP: “You cannot claim that the settlements are a Palestinian employment programme. Settlements impoverish….”

JP: “If they employ people they are.”

BP: “Settlements impoverish people. The figures that have been cited about 30% unemployment – why is that? Is that perhaps because there are roadblocks every half hour? Is that because it’s impossible for a Palestinian to establish their own factory because they can’t get permits in areas that are close to settlements? Is it because the Palestinian olive oil industry is collapsing because of the settlements?”

Once again Paxman makes no attempt to correct or challenge the misleading – if not downright delusional – impressions promoted by Phillips. “Roadblocks every half hour” (whatever they are supposed to be) simply do not exist and the twelve that do are normally open apart from in exceptional security situations. Not only can Palestinians apply for permits to establish factories or other businesses, but master plans have been drawn up for Palestinian communities in Area C, industrial zones have been established and infrastructure has been upgraded.  Phillips’ of course supplies no evidence to back up his bizarre claim of ‘collapse’ of the olive oil industry “because of the settlements”.

Paxman continues:

“Right. There may be many things going on – many imponderables – but we’re talking about this one concern, this factory, which as you have heard and as you well know, employs Palestinians. You want to see them chucked out, do you?”

BP: “We want to see that land returned to the people that were thrown off that land.” 

File:WikiAir IL-13-06 025b - Mishor Adumim.jpg

Photo credit: Neukoln

JP: “So you do.”

BP: “We want to see the return of the land – yes.”

JP: “Would you like to see that factory cease to employ Palestinians on that site?”

BP: “You could imagine a new scenario in which a Palestinian company…”

JP: “We can imagine all sorts of things. We can imagine the world’s made of green cheese.”

BP: “…a Palestinian company and they could have an arrangement with SodaStream.”

JP: “What do you want?”

BP: “We want the settlements to end because we’ve seen the damage that’s caused and therefore the settlement economy cannot be supported.”

JP: “So you want this factory shut down.”

BP: “You can’t operate factories in settlements and then say that the settlements are wrong.”

JP: “Do you want this factory shut down or not?”

BP: “We want no factories in the settlements because the settlements are illegal.”

The interview then goes back to Daniel Birnbaum before closing.

Whilst Jeremy Paxman’s interviewing style may not have made for a particularly easy time for Oxfam’s spokesman, the presenter made no effort to correct the multiple falsehoods and misleading impressions propagated by his interviewee and even threw in a few of his own. But what is perhaps most notable about this interview is its superficiality, in that it focused on the narrow picture rather than dealing with the wider issues at hand.

The current status of Area C – in which the SodaStream factory is situated – is defined by the Oslo Accords to which Israel and the representatives of the Palestinian people were willing signatories. In other words, despite the fact that the Palestinians agreed to Area C remaining under Israeli control until its status is determined under final status negotiations between the two parties, that is not good enough for Oxfam. Indeed, if Ben Phillips is representative of Oxfam’s way of thinking – and his job description suggests that he is – then that organization appears to condescendingly believe that its own views supersede those of the internationally recognised representatives of the Palestinian people.

That of course raises another question. Let us for a moment imagine that the current negotiations would yield an agreement between Israel and the PLO under which – as is more than likely – the large groups of communities in Judea & Samaria (including Ma’ale Adumim) would remain under Israeli control in exchange for land swaps.

Do we, on the basis of this interview, have any reason to expect that Oxfam and its often dubious partners (along with many others in the community of politically motivated NGOs and ‘charities’) might accept the terms of such an agreement considering that they currently display such blatant refusal to accept the terms of the Oslo Agreement which was also negotiated by Israelis and Palestinians? Or would we still find Ben Phillips railing against “illegal settlements”, spouting cod legal opinions, calling for the closure of factories which support Palestinian and Israeli families and dabbling in arm’s-length BDS in future ‘Newsnight’ interviews?

What a pity that Jeremy Paxman did not ask him about that: the answers would have been considerably more revealing and informative to BBC audiences than the fables and fantasies they heard in this interview.

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BBC displays its campaigning colours in SodaStream story coverage

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

SodaStream on ME pge 31 1

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

Oxfam filmed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oxfam Connolly Saleem clip

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

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

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

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

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

Towards the end of the article Connolly argues that:

“The boycott movement is important.

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

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

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

Oxfam Saleem clip us canada

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

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

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

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

January 30th saw the appearance of an article titled “Scarlett Johansson quits Oxfam role over SodaStream row” on the BBC News website’s US & Canada and Middle East pages. 

SodaStream art

The article opens:

“Actress Scarlett Johansson has quit as an ambassador for Oxfam amid a row over her support for an Israeli company that operates in the occupied West Bank.

A spokesman for the actress said she had a “fundamental difference of opinion” with the humanitarian group.

She will remain a brand ambassador for SodaStream, which has a factory in the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim.”

Actually, the SodaStream factory is located to the east of Ma’ale Adumim in the Mishor Adumim Industrial Park and in an area which, under any reasonable scenario of a peace agreement between Israel and the PLO, will remain under Israeli control. Notably, the BBC – as usual – does not bother to inform audiences of that aspect of the story. 

Mishor Adumim

The report continues:

“Oxfam opposes trade from settlements, considered illegal under international law – something Israel disputes.

About 500,000 Jews currently live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

As usual, no attempt is made to clarify to readers that contrasting legal opinions also exist outside Israel and the BBC presents selected views as indisputable fact. 

At no point in this report is any attempt made to inform readers of the context of Oxfam’s record of politically motivated campaigning against Israel. Likewise, at no point is any attempt made to explain to audiences that Oxfam’s stance is the result of its alignment with the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and that the aim of that movement is the dismantling of Israel as the Jewish state through a campaign of delegitimisation.

“With pressure imposed by the international community through a BDS campaign a la anti-Apartheid campaign which brought Apartheid South Africa to an end, we believe that Israel itself can be transformed into a secular democratic state after the return of 6 million Palestinian refugees who were ethnically cleansed in 1948, a state for ALL of its citizens…therefore, we think that one of the major tools of the struggle towards a secular democratic state is BDS.” Haider Eid, 2009

“So BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state…I view the BDS movement as a long-term project with radically transformative potential… the success of the BDS movement is tied directly to our success in humanizing Palestinians and discrediting Zionism as a legitimate way of regarding the world.” Ahmed Moor, 2010

“BDS represents three words that will help bring about the defeat of Zionist Israel and victory for Palestine.” Ronnie Kasrils, 2009

The BBC’s report quotes from a statement issued by Oxfam:

“Oxfam believes that businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.”

Despite the obviously downright bizarre nature of that statement, the BBC makes no attempt to clarify to readers that the 500 or so Palestinians working at SodaStream enjoy the same rates of pay, benefits and rights as their Israeli colleagues or that unemployment in the PA controlled areas stood at 19.1% in the third quarter of 2013 according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and that employees of SodaStream  earn several times the average wage of 88 shekels a day in PA controlled areas.

Towards the end of the report, the BBC once again stoops to quoting second-hand unverified hearsay from an unnamed source.

“However, away from the factory, Reuters quoted one unnamed Palestinian employee as saying “there’s a lot of racism” at work.

“Most of the managers are Israeli, and West Bank employees feel they can’t ask for pay rises or more benefits because they can be fired and easily replaced,” he added.”

In the film below, however, are some named SodaStream employees talking about their experiences and here readers can watch an interview with the factory’s manager and hear a conversation with production manager Mohamed Barhum conducted by our colleague Adam Levick of CiF Watch last year.

It takes about half an hour even in bad traffic to drive from Jerusalem to Mishor Adumim. Surely someone from the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau could have popped down there to do some proper reporting instead of BBC News resorting once again to recycling unverified quotes from second-hand sources.

Had that been done, BBC journalists would have discovered that SodaStream is far from the only firm employing Palestinians at that industrial park and that some of the businesses operating in the Mishor Adumim complex are Arab-owned. They could then have approached Oxfam for a statement on whether those companies too are deemed worthy of boycott simply because of their physical location.

Such a statement might well have contributed to BBC audiences’ understanding of the real roots of Oxfam’s campaign and the true nature of the BDS movement. Unfortunately for BBC audiences however, it seems that once again the corporation is more interested in the amplification of a specific unquestioned narrative than in providing them with a range of information which will allow them to form their own views on the subject.

This report joins many others in raising the very obvious question of why the BBC’s funding public should be obliged to pay to read second-hand recycled quotes from sources they could have accessed for free themselves. It also raises an additional issue: sources such as Reuters (quoted in this article), AP and AFP (frequently quoted in other reports) are of course not bound by the same editorial standards as the BBC. That fact prompts the question of whether any sort of mechanism exists to ensure that information sourced by the BBC from other media outlets is checked for accuracy and impartiality before it is recycled to BBC audiences.