In which a BBC Radio 4 guest compares Israel to a drug addict

Hosted as usual by Paddy O’Connell, the March 22nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s weekly current affairs programme ‘Broadcasting House’ (available here) included Lib Dem MP Menzies Campbell and actor David Schneider among its guests. At 53:50 listeners heard the following extraordinary conversation.Broadcasting House 22 3 15

Paddy O’Connell: “David Schneider […] I think you want to talk to us about Israeli politics.”

David Schneider: “Well, yes. So, I’m Jewish and I was very depressed this…ehm…this week because of the…Netanyahu’s re-election. Sometimes…I mean it’s very complex for me as a sort of Left-wing Jew and my attitude to Israel. Sometimes it feels like a sort of family member with a severe drug addiction.”

PO: “With that warning, what are you reading from?” […]

DS: “There was… there was a glimmer of hope – which is on page 33 of the Observer – that the Joint List – which is an Arab-Jewish alliance – has actually won 13 seats. So despite Netanyahu saying there’ll be no Palestinian state – which he’s now backtracked on slightly after the election – and saying Arabs are heading to the polls in droves on the day of the election – which was just chilling – ehm…there is a glimmer of hope in that, sort of, more Israeli Arabs voted and there is, you know…and Arab-Jewish parties were coming together.”

Beyond the very obvious point (although clearly, not to some) that an election in the Middle East’s most vibrant democracy is about rather more than the ennui of English chatterati, Schneider misleads with regard to the Joint Arab List and O’Connell makes no attempt to correct the inaccurate impression given to listeners.

That, of course, is not surprising: the BBC has failed to inform audiences in all of its coverage of the recent Israeli election that the Joint Arab List is made up of four existing political parties, only one of which can accurately be classified as a Jewish-Arab party. That party – Hadash – has one Jewish member (Dov Hanin/Khenin) on its list and there are no Jewish MKs in any of the other three parties comprising the Joint Arab List. Schneider’s inaccurate description of the Joint Arab List as an “Arab-Jewish alliance” is hence based on the fact that one of the four parties it includes has one Jewish MK. Working on that principle, Schneider would also have to categorise the Likud, the Zionist Union, Meretz and Israel Beiteinu parties as ‘Arab- Jewish alliances’ because each of those parties has one Arab MK. 

No less important is the fact that the Joint Arab List includes the anti-Zionist parties Balad and Ta’al and the Islamist ‘United Arab List’. That information – which has not been communicated to BBC audiences at any point in the corporation’s coverage of the election – is critical to appreciation of the remarkable fact that parties which oppose the existence of Israel as the Jewish state participate in Israeli elections and enjoy representation in the Knesset.

In addition to O’Connell’s failure to correct his guest’s inaccurate portrayal of the Joint Arab List, we also see that he refrains from clarifying to listeners that Schneider’s cherry-picked parts of statements made by Netahyahu on the subject of a Palestinian state and regarding the connection between the foreign-funded V15 campaign and Joint Arab List voters are not complete quotes. O’Connell similarly fails to challenge Menzies Campbell’s equally selective paraphrasing of one of those statements later on in the conversation.

Menzies Campbell: “Netanyahu – quite extraordinary to be as overtly right-wing as he was in the last 24 – 48 hours. The one thing you can be certain of: he caused yet more anxiety and annoyance in the White House. Relations between Obama and Netanyahu have never been good. Those last 24 hours before the election will really have been – forgive the vulgarity – right up the nose of the American president.”

DS: “There is an interesting comment in this article though; that one of the Israeli-Arab leaders says that in a way it’s good that Netanyahu’s won because it’ll be so bad now, it’ll increase international pressure on Israel to end the occupation. It could get so bad now that things will have to change.”

That Israeli-Arab ‘leader’ is Balad branch secretary Sami Abu Shehadeh – a popular source for the Guardian and an unsurprising interviewee for the writer of the article promoted by Schneider, who previously cut her activism-cum-journalism teeth at 972 Magazine and two political NGOs. Paddy O’Connell however makes no attempt to clarify the political background to Schneider’s article of choice. Menzies Campbell continues with the following debatable declaration:

MC: “The problem is – the settlements. And you can’t…there’s no leader of the Palestinians who could possibly accept a settlement which didn’t include East Jerusalem as the cabinet of a Palestinian state. The settlements are proceeding at such a pace that it will soon be impossible for that to be the case.”

O’Connell interjects:

PO: “And I certainly make the point that the Israelis did vote so that although you’ve got your disagreements, he was returned, wasn’t he, against the odds.”

Campbell: “But look at…you know…him saying the Arabs are coming to the polls; you’ve got to get out. I mean imagine if a politician here had said the black vote is coming out; you’ve got to do something, or the Jews or, you know… it’s just impossible to conceive.”

The item ends there but what is actually inconceivable is that none of the people in that BBC studio were aware of the very relevant context that the bulk of parties making up the Joint Arab List oppose the existence of Israel as the Jewish state. Perhaps if they widened their own media consumption beyond the Guardian/Observer and the BBC, they would be able to come up with informative and relevant commentary more useful to BBC audiences than the obviously politically partisan and inaccurate caricature presented in this programme. 

BBC’s Kevin Connolly comes good on kibbutz caviar

With Radio 4 being one of the departments of the BBC which appears disturbingly frequently on these pages, we’ll file this one under SONY DSC‘credit where credit is due’.

The February 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme Broadcasting House included an item by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly (available here from about 51:10) in which he travelled to Kibbutz Dan in the northern Galilee to report on its production of caviar – and managed to do so accurately and impartially.

Bon appetit! 


Jeremy Bowen promotes Sabra & Shatila lies on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Broadcasting House’

The January 12th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Broadcasting House’, hosted by Paddy O’Connell and available here, includes (from around 28:00) a contribution by the BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen on the subject of Ariel Sharon who had died the previous day.

Broadcasting House 12 1

O’Connell introduces the item thus:

“The convoy with Ariel Sharon’s coffin has in fact just arrived at the Israeli parliament – the Knesset – where his body is now being moved to a podium. Israelis will be able to pass by to pay their last respects. The funeral of Areil Sharon takes place tomorrow in his family farm close to Gaza as we’ve been hearing in the news. World leaders will attend a ceremony although President Obama is not going; his vice president will represent the USA.”

Before informing listeners of any Israeli reactions to the news of Sharon’s death, O’Connell – in line with much of the rest of the BBC’s coverage of the subject – then finds it necessary to tell them what the Palestinians think of the death of somebody else’s former prime minister. 

“Palestinians see Ariel Sharon as a criminal and have condemned his record. As for Israelis, they will have their chance to pay their respects as his body lies in state in Jerusalem. Well I’ve discussed this with the BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen.

Bowen begins:

“Now he hasn’t been a political factor of course in eight years. Israelis are very good at absorbing shocks and they did that in 2006 when he had his stroke and went into a coma. But he’s a very symbolic character as far as Israelis are concerned. He goes right back to their independence war in 1948; he fought in that and was wounded. Shimon Peres the former prime minister, now the president, who was a politician right back in 1948 himself, gave this tribute.”

Listeners then hear a recording of Shimon Peres speaking in English, after which O’Connell says:

“It’s notable when you look at the tributes that have come in – if you compare this to what happened when Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, when Yasser Arafat paid tribute and himself went to a commemoration for the assassinated prime minister – this is not the case at all this time round.”

Bowen: “Yeah. Rabin was seen as a tough guy, a military commander who had – from the Palestinians’ point of view – certainly from Arafat’s point of view – who had changed. Ariel Sharon – as far as the Palestinians were concerned – was never going to change. 1982 Sharon as Defence Minister presided over an invasion of Lebanon. During the siege of Beirut there was a terrible massacre of Palestinians in a refugee camp. Hundreds dead – maybe thousands dead. Now they were killed by Lebanese Christian militiamen who were in alliance at the time with the Israelis and there was an official inquiry into all this afterwards in Israel itself. That commission of inquiry found that Sharon was personally responsible and he was forced to resign as Minister of Defence.” [emphasis added]

Bowen’s account – and his implication that Sharon was found to be responsible for the massacres themselves – is of course not accurate. The Kahan Commission in fact found that Sharon (and others) bore indirect personal responsibility for not anticipating the possibility of Phalangist violence.

“On 7 February 1983 the Kahan Commission published its recommendations: Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Events at the Refugee Camps in Beirut. The report attributed direct responsibility for the massacre to the Phalangists. However, the commission determined that indirect personal responsibility fell on several Israeli office holders. It stated that: “in our view, everyone who had anything to do with events in Lebanon should have felt apprehension about a massacre in the camps, if armed Phalangist forces were to be moved into them without the IDF exercising concrete and effective supervision and scrutiny of them “.”

Not content with misleading listeners on the findings of the Kahan Commission, Bowen goes on to present a recording which he has clearly selected in order to advance the impression he wishes to create. 

Bowen: “From the Palestinian point of view it made the man [Sharon] absolutely beyond the pale as far as they were concerned. And they are still very angry about what happened there. There are memorials there to the people who died and one of the survivors of the massacre – a man called Mohammed Srour spoke about that and he said that he wished Mr Sharon had been punished for his actions.”

Listeners then hear a recording of Mohammed Srour speaking in Arabic, with a BBC translation overlaid.

Srour: “Sharon has passed away but we didn’t wish him to die in such a way. I am one of the victims whose parents died in the Sabra and Shatila massacre. I was hoping he would be killed by the hand of a Palestinian child or a Palestinian woman because when he entered Sabra and Shatila and carried out the massacre, he killed the children and the women.”

Of course Sharon did not enter Sabra and Shatila and did not carry out the massacre, but  neither Bowen nor O’Connell make any subsequent effort throughout the whole of the rest of the item to correct the misleading impression created by the interviewee Jeremy Bowen deliberately chose to showcase.

Notably, given Bowen’s introduction to the interview with Srour, we can apparently conclude that the latter’s call for the murder of Ariel Sharon “by the hand of a Palestinian child or a Palestinian woman” is what Bowen regards as ‘punishment’. 

The BBC’s coverage of Ariel Sharon’s death has included considerable quantities of misleading, inaccurate and defamatory statements by assorted interviewees. The BBC cannot, however, hide behind the claim that these are not the words of its own employees as all BBC produced content is subject to its editorial guidelines.   

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell invents ‘settlements’, amplifies anti-Israel activist

Breaches of editorial guidelines in BBC WS ‘Newshour’ special Sharon broadcast

Loving the hate: BBC coverage of Sharon’s death

Multiple breaches of editorial guidelines in Sharon report by BBC’s Paul Adams

BBC exploits Sharon’s death for more promotion of second Intifada falsehood





BBC guest champions Hass’ advocacy of violence against Israelis

h/t JK

The Sunday April 7th 2013 edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Broadcasting House’ – presented by Paddy O’Connell – included, as usual, a review of the papers by visiting guests.

Broadcasting House 7 4

In this particular edition, however, rather than its usual focus on British news or world affairs featuring prominently in the UK papers, the “press panel” segment of the broadcast included a dishonest diatribe by guest journalist Charles Glass. 

Glass – the former ABC head of news in the Middle East between 1983 and 1993 – will no doubt be a familiar figure to readers of The Guardian (which recently published Glass’ article on the subject of his “hero” Noam Chomsky) and the Arts Council (i.e. British taxpayer) funded London Review of Books  – the systemic  anti-Israel bias of which was the subject of a 2010 report by ‘Just Journalism.

At 45:44 in this recording of the programme Glass says:

“Well, speaking of hate mail, I want to talk about Amira Hass who’s one of the best journalists in Israel. She’s a correspondent in the occupied territories for Ha’aretz and she wrote a column recently about ways for the Palestinians to resist military occupation – the illegal military occupation. She wrote ‘steadfastness and resistance against the physical, and even more so the systemic, institutionalised violence, is the inner syntax of Palestinians in this land’. For that, the Yesha Council – which represents the illegal settlers in the occupied territories – has filed a complaint. They want her to be prosecuted.”

Host Paddy O’Connell then makes a distinctly tepid interjection – presumably in the name of BBC ‘impartiality’ box-ticking.

16 month-old child hurt in stone-throwing attack near Tapuach junction, September 2012

PO’C: “And when you use the word ‘illegal settlers’, do you mean that you find the settlers to be illegal or…

Glass swiftly interrupts the docile O’Connell by saying:

CG: “I mean that under international law, they’re not allowed to take other people’s land and then put people on there.”

O’Connell immediately folds, failing to point out that Glass is not an expert on international law and neglecting to inform listeners that Glass’ verbal caricature in no way reflects either the complexity of the subject or the diversity of genuine legal opinion pertaining to it. He continues:

PO’C: “And the whole settler question…she’s in trouble in the newspaper, is she? What’s happening with her own publishers?

CG: “Well Ha’aretz has two excellent correspondents – Gideon Levy and Amira Hass – who write regularly about the occupation. Ha’aretz has so far withstood all the pressure to fire them and both continue to write. Ha’aretz is a.. really is a good paper.”

Whilst it is hardly surprising to find a person of Glass’ opinions promoting Levy, Hass and their paper in such glowing terms, the BBC must be called to account for allowing his deliberately disingenuous representations publicity – in obvious breach of its own editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality. 

Ramallah resident Amira Hass’ March 3rd article, which Glass so enthusiastically defends, opened with a clear call for Palestinians to engage in violence.

“Throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule. Throwing stones is an action as well as a metaphor of resistance.”

וייס המשיכה בנסיעה, למרות האבנים (צילום: AFP)

Beit Ummar, February 2012

Later on in the article she excuses the attempt to cause physical harm by writing:

 “But in the inner syntax of the relationship between the occupier and the occupied, stone-throwing is the adjective attached to the subject of “We’ve had enough of you, occupiers.” “

Hass even suggests in her article that “basic classes in resistance” should be taught in Palestinian schools. “Resistance” – as someone as familiar with the Middle East as Charles Glass should well know – is the Western public opinion-orientated euphemism for terror.

In other words, not only does Amira Hass find it perfectly acceptable for Palestinians to attack Israeli civilians with rocks, stones and who knows what else – she thinks that it is their duty to do so. Apparently, so does Charles Glass.

It is this incitement to violence which prompted the Yesha Council to complain about Hass’ article – not the sentence which Glass disingenuously elected to quote. His dishonest characterisation of that complaint as “hate mail” reveals much about both Glass’ political sympathies and his moral stance.

By providing a platform for Glass to whitewash Hass’ call for what is – let’s be perfectly frank about this – the organized and pre-meditated attempted murder of Israeli civilians, the BBC has rendered itself complicit to that incitement. Although it fairly successfully avoids reporting on the majority of the dozens of incidents in which Israelis are attacked – and sometimes killed – by Palestinian stone-throwers, it would not be too difficult for the BBC to apprise itself of the consequences of such shockingly frequent acts of terror. 

We cannot, surely, imagine the BBC playing host to the champion of an inciter of violence against any other group of people, but this brief broadcast shows how the lazy delegitimisation and dehumanization of Israelis has become commonplace in BBC discourse. 

Ahikam Simantov in 1990 after a rock thrown by Palestinians at the family car struck his head. Photo: Simantov family.

Glass’ use of the term “illegal settlers” – and O’Connell’s repetition of it – is an example of the way in which language is used to advance a politically motivated value judgement. That term deliberately categorises the people to whom it refers as “illegal”. It does not refer to the legal status of the communities in which they happen to live or to the actions and decisions of their government, but to the actual human beings it seeks to dehumanize and delegitimize. From there it is of course not a great leap to defending those who encourage the throwing of rocks at an “illegal” adult, child or baby. Ironically, it is all too frequently the same people dubbed ‘illegal’ by this BBC journalist and his guest who bear the brunt of what the BBC is so reluctant to name as terror. 

The same BBC which is so sensitive about making “value judgements” on the subject of terrorism apparently has no such qualms when it comes to making judgments about a specific sector of Israeli society. Its kangaroo court of language censors appears to have nothing to say about the designation of certain human beings as ‘illegal’ purely on the basis of their post code – with all that entails.

The vast majority of listeners to this programme will have no idea of the real content of Amira Hass’ article. Neither will they know much about the suffering caused to those on the receiving end of the types of “resistance” which Hass advocates. What they will have come away with, however, is the impression that a bunch of “illegal settlers” have made an unjustified complaint against an “excellent” journalist from a “good” paper.

That is about the most inaccurate and partial way this story could have been spun and the BBC collaborated with the broadcast of that spin to millions of listeners. In doing so – intentionally or not – it also became party to helping incitement along. 


BBC Radio 4’s ‘News Review of the Year’ resurrects dead baby war porn

h/t: JK

On December 30th 2012 BBC Radio 4 broadcast an hour-long programme entitled “News Review of the Year”, presented by Paddy O’Connell. The programme can be heard here for a limited period of time and readers in the UK can also find it on iPlayer

R4 news review

Among the “defining events” chosen by the programme’s producer was the mid-November conflict between Hamas and Israel.

Beginning at 46:33 one hears the presenter start straight off with the theme of moral equivalence as he says: [emphasis added]

“These rockets were recorded being fired from Gaza towards targets in Israel. The two sides have been blaming each other for an escalation that reached new heights after Israel assassinated a Hamas officer they blamed for planning the strikes.”

Once again the BBC is promoting the erroneous notion that the escalation began with the death of Ahmed Jabari, negating the importance of the hundreds of rocket attacks which preceded that event. 

Next comes a short (42 seconds) recording of a BBC report from Ashkelon which – importantly as we will see later on – makes do with describing the effects of terrorist rocket fire from Gaza in terms of “a gaping hole in the roof”.

After that, it is over to Gaza for a 34 second-long recording of Jon Donnison describing a “massive [Israeli] air strike”.

At 48:09 O’Connell is back, casting doubts upon Hamas’ use of the civilian population in Gaza as human shields, even though that was amply documented – sometimes inadvertently – by the BBC’s own reporters in Gaza at the time:

“Israel said it regretted all civilian casualties at home and in Gaza and accused Hamas of hiding weapons amid people’s houses. Jon Donnison returned to ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ to recount what lay behind one civilian death in Gaza. You may well find what follows distressing”.

What follows is an abridged version of Donnison’s November 24th broadcast on ‘From Our Own Correspondent” which lasts two minutes and a half. 

Once again, a stage is given to Donnison’s explicit war pornography which gives graphic descriptions of the dead child. Once again, the unsubstantiated claim that the “Israeli military had bombed his [the child’s father’s] house” is propagated. Once again, Donnison’s promotion of false civilian casualty figures is aired to millions and once again Donnison’s accusation of inflated casualty figures in Israel is allowed to stand. 

It is not surprising that the BBC has elected to resurrect Donnison’s report yet again after having invested very heavily in its promotion around the time of its broadcast and ever since. The piece is still available on the front page of the ‘Magazine’ section of the BBC News website.

Magazine 2 01

Two days after Donnison’s programme was first aired on November 24th, additional aspects to the story came to light. The BBC has so far failed to clarify why, on November 26th, one of its film crews was present at the funeral of the brother of the baby’s father who was injured in the same incident and was buried wrapped in a Hamas flag. The BBC has also failed to address the subject of the highly problematic interview given by its employee Jihad Masharawi at that funeral to Hamas’ Al Aqsa TV. 

Ahmed Masharawi 1

Instead, the BBC continues to entrench a version of the recent conflict which – like its reporting at the time – is imbalanced, inaccurate and partial. Forty two seconds of coverage of rocket attacks in Israel relate only to damage to property. More than four times that amount of total coverage from Gaza (3 minutes 4 seconds) focuses on blaming Israel for the death of a baby whilst airbrushing out any context and refusing to address the unclarified aspects of the story. 

What impression does this Radio 4 broadcast give its audiences? The answer to that is very clear. As far as the BBC is concerned, the recent conflict (like those in the past and – probably – those in the future) can be boiled down to annoying holes in the roof in Israel and tragic dead babies in Gaza.

The BBC’s dogged promotion of the Omar Masharawi story – and its failure to examine the real circumstances behind it – is indicative of a journalistic culture which seeks to advance a specific narrative by defining a narrow public perceptions of events, rather than reporting the news.  Such a culture cannot fail to further compromise the BBC’s already severely battered reputation.