A rare BBC News report on internal Palestinian affairs

As we have periodically noted on these pages, the BBC’s Middle East reporting rarely includes stand-alone coverage of Palestinian affairs.

“Insight into internal Palestinian politics which would enhance audiences’ comprehension of Palestinian society (as well as the conflict) is relatively rare in BBC coverage. Reporting on social and human rights issues within Palestinian society is even more scarce and thus BBC audiences see a blinkered and largely one-dimensional view of Palestinian life.”

It was therefore encouraging to see a factual report on a recent incident involving the Palestinian Authority security forces published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 23rd under the headline “Palestinian suspect in police killings ‘beaten to death’“.PA lynch art

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) says it has launched an investigation after a man was apparently beaten to death in a jail in the West Bank city of Nablus.

Nablus Governor Akram Rajoub said Ahmed Halawa had been assaulted by Palestinian security forces at Junaid prison after shouting insults at them.

Mr Halawa was the alleged ringleader of an attack that led to the killing of two policemen in the area last week.

Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah described his death as an “irregular incident”.

However, human rights activists have in the past been extremely critical of the treatment of prisoners in Palestinian jails. They say that torture is common, and committed with impunity.”

More than seven years have passed since BBC audiences last saw any serious reporting on that topic in the English language.

Towards the end of the report BBC audiences were finally informed that municipal elections are scheduled to take place in the PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip in October.

“The two factions are preparing for local elections across the Palestinian territories in October.”

The article closes with a brief mention of a different story:

“In a separate development on Tuesday, the Israeli military said it had dismantled a Palestinian weapons-making and smuggling network in the West Bank.

Troops found more than 20 arms-manufacturing machines at several sites in the Bethlehem and Hebron areas overnight, it added. Two traffickers were arrested.”

Unfortunately, BBC audiences were not provided with the context to that information.

“Though this is by no means the first operation of its kind in 2016, it is the largest to date. Since 2016, the IDF has shut down 49 weapons manufacturing machines and seized over 300 firearms. Over 140 weapons dealers and manufacturers have been arrested. […]

Firearms have accounted for over 25% of terror attacks since the beginning of 2016, resulting in over 30 shooting attacks. Operations like the one undertaken last night, which target Palestinian violence at its source, have resulted in a 30% drop in terror attacks in the past several months.”

Hopefully this report signals the advent of a new era of BBC reporting and Palestinian internal affairs will begin to receive the more comprehensive coverage which audiences have to date been denied.  

BBC’s Fatah profile misleads on reason for failure of 2010 negotiations

The BBC News website’s profile of Fatah has not been updated in over five years and hence does not provide BBC audiences with any up to date information on the topic of the power struggles within that party or the fate of the 2014 Hamas/Fatah ‘reconciliation’ which caused the last round of negotiations between Israel and the PLO to come to an end.Fatah profile

BBC audiences do however find in that backgrounder a sanitised and inaccurate account of the preceding round of talks.

“…Mr Abbas went to Washington in September 2010, aiming to re-launch peace talks with the Israelis on behalf of all Palestinians. The talks collapsed within a matter of weeks over Israel’s refusal to stop building settlements.”

Audiences are not informed that the Israeli government announced a ten month-long ‘goodwill gesture’ construction freeze in November 2009 or that for nine of those ten months, the Palestinians refused to come to the negotiating table. Only at the beginning of September 2010 did the Palestinians agree to commence direct negotiations and meetings were held in Washington and Sharm el Sheikh. As the construction freeze’s pre-designated time frame drew to a close on September 26th, the PA president and PLO and Fatah leader Abbas demanded its extension, threatening to end the talks if he did not get his way. The result was that on October 2nd 2010 the negotiations ended.

It is not unusual to find misrepresentation of the reason for the end of the 2010 talks in BBC reports – see examples here and here. However, inaccurate information in a backgrounder obviously has the potential to mislead even more and clearly needs correction.

Related Articles:

Inaccuracy in BBC’s Fatah profile exposed

More Fatah glorification of terrorism ignored by the BBC

Last month we noted the predictable absence of any BBC coverage of the annual paramilitary summer camps organised by the terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad for children and youth in the Gaza Strip.

Now Palestinian Media Watch brings us news of another terror glorifying children’s summer camp.  This one, however, did not take place in the Gaza Strip and was not run by Islamist terror groups.

“As part of the closing ceremony of a summer camp for Palestinian children organized by the Palestinian National Committee of Summer Camps and the Fatah Movement, Palestinian children performed a play showing the alleged “cruel attitude of the Zionist jailer towards our [Palestinian] heroic prisoners.”  […]

The summer camp was named after terrorist Muhammad Al-Shubaki, who stabbed and wounded an Israel soldier at the entrance to the Al-Fawwar refugee camp on Nov. 25, 2015. The terrorist’s father spoke at the closing ceremony of the summer camp, expressing his “pride and thanks for the gesture of memorializing the heroic Martyrs.””Fatah profile

The BBC’s profile of Fatah continues to inform audiences that the movement “signed a declaration rejecting attacks on civilians in Israel and committing themselves to peace and co-existence.”

As long as the corporation continues to avoid reporting cases of blatant glorification of terrorism by the PA’s dominant party Fatah such as this summer camp, audiences will of course be unable to put that supposed Fatah ‘commitment’ to “peace and co-existence” into its appropriate context and the BBC will continue to fail to meet its purpose remit of building “understanding of international issues”.   

Related Articles:

BBC ignores annual terrorist indoctrination of Gaza youth yet again

Inaccuracy in BBC’s Fatah profile exposed

 

Weekend long read

1) With the misappropriation of funds and materials intended to better the lives of ordinary residents in the Gaza Strip by Hamas recruited NGO workers having made headlines in the last couple of weeks, Professor Gerald Steinberg takes a look at the bigger picture.Weekend Read

“The broader problem is that due diligence for humanitarian aid in war and terror zones requires the allocation of significant resources and a professional staff capable of detaching itself from the pressures and sympathies of the local environment. World Vision, like most aid groups operating in Gaza, clearly failed in this respect. […]

World Vision’s troubles in Gaza reflect the broader moral failures of the humanitarian-aid industry. The narrow vision of aid workers contribute to a willful blindness to terrorism. The competition for publicity and donations results in alliances with brutal regimes and corrupt warlords. But thanks to the NGO “halo effect,” many donors also neglect due diligence, instead relying on the pure reputation of the recipient organization.”

2) The WSJ’s David Feith takes a look at an issue which, as has frequently been noted on these pages, has long been avoided by BBC journalists: the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists.

“For two decades the Palestinian government has used U.S. and other foreign taxpayers’ money to pay generous rewards to the families of terrorists. The deadlier the crime, the larger the prize, up to about $3,100 a month, or several times the average salary of a worker in Palestine’s non-terrorist economy. […]

No U.S. official can plead ignorance. Palestinian law has sanctioned these payments since at least 2004, specifying how much money is earned depending on the circumstances of the attacker and the body count. A Palestinian from Israel with a wife and children who kills many people and dies in the act, or is captured and sentenced to more than 30 years in prison, earns the most. Single, childless attackers from the West Bank or Gaza earn less. The incentives are clear.

Palestinian leaders once tried to obscure their payments by characterizing them as “assistance” rather than “salaries.” They also shifted nominal responsibility from the Palestinian Authority (PA), which takes donations from foreign governments, to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which doesn’t. But this was a sham, as both bodies are run by Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party.”

3) The Fathom Journal has a very informative article by Shiraz Maher of KCL titled “Mapping contemporary Salafi-Jihadism“.

4) With the BBC so far having refrained from covering the run-up to the municipal elections scheduled for October 8th in PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip, Khaled Abu Toameh’s reporting on the campaigning provides invaluable background.

“Hamas, whose leaders seem to be enthusiastic and optimistic about the upcoming vote, has seized the opportunity to wage a massive election campaign on Facebook and Twitter to promote its extremist ideology through intimidation and by accusing its rivals of infidelity, blasphemy and profanity. Hamas’s message to the Palestinian voters: Vote for us or else you will be considered infidels and you will end up in hell.

The first sign of Hamas’s frightening platform emerged when one of its top muftis, Yunis Al-Astal, issued a fatwa (Islamic religious decree) banning Palestinians from voting for any other party other than Hamas. “Any person, male or female, who votes for a party other than Hamas will be considered an infidel and apostate and his or her repentance will not be accepted even if they fasted or prayed or performed the hajj [pilgrimage] to Mecca,” the mufti ruled.

The Hamas fatwa sparked a wave of anger from many Palestinians, who were quick to accuse the Islamist movement and its leaders of waging a campaign of intimidation and terror against voters.” 

 

BBC Earth article contravenes style guide with inaccurate terminology

The BBC Academy’s style guide titled “Israel and the Palestinians” makes it amply clear to BBC journalists that they should not portray the PA controlled territories as a state called Palestine.

Style Guide Palestine

Nevertheless, readers of a BBC Earth article titled “Earth’s saltiest place makes the Dead Sea look like tapwater” by Ella Davies which was promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 10th were told that the Dead Sea lies on the border of a country called Palestine.

Dead Sea art BBC Earth

The region portrayed by Davies as ‘the border of Palestine’ is in fact defined as Area C by the Oslo Accords and its final status is subject to negotiation between Israel and the PLO. Clearly a correction to that inaccurate terminology is necessary in order to prevent audiences from being misled.

Related Articles:

Final status negotiations on Area C passé for BBC’s Kevin Connolly

Resources:

BBC Earth on Twitter

A view of Gaza that BBC audiences can not recognise

On August 9th the Palestinian Islamic Jihad announced that it will not take part in October’s municipal elections in the PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip.

““We will not participate in the municipal and local elections,” the terrorist group said in a statement.

The movement, a splinter and sometimes rival of the Islamist terror group Hamas which runs the Gaza Strip, said the elections were not an “appropriate way out of the Palestinian national impasse.”

Instead, the group called on Hamas to reconcile with its rival Fatah, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas.”

Another terrorist group is however participating in the elections and on August 8th its supporters put out a video designed to boost Hamas’ election campaign. As the Times of Israel reports, the film features “smiling people holding up signs with the hashtag “Thank you Hamas””.

Channel 10’s Arab affairs correspondent Hezi Simantov described the video as being aimed at showing that Hamas has rehabilitated the Gaza Strip and that its residents live normal lives. He added that the film is intended to create the impression that Hamas takes an interest in – and cares about – the situation of the residents of the Strip but that it has already raised a storm of criticism from those who (rightly) claim that it does not depict the whole picture of the situation in the Gaza Strip.

The BBC has so far refrained from reporting on the scheduled elections at all but if and when it does get round to doing so, it is unlikely that its audiences will learn of this Hamas campaign material which promotes the water parks, luxury hotels, restaurants, green sports fields and smart shopping malls that BBC audiences have never been told exist in the Gaza Strip.

Related Articles:

Inaccuracy in BBC’s Fatah profile exposed

 

Flaws in BBC’s ‘explanation’ of Palestinian terror again exposed

Despite at least one BBC News producer being aware of the incident, the corporation chose not to report a narrowly averted terror attack against travellers on the Jerusalem light rail system last month.

“Police in downtown Jerusalem on Sunday morning arrested a Palestinian man who was found to be carrying explosives and knives in his backpack.

The suspect, identified as a West Bank resident, was detained near the light rail stop on Jaffa Road after he raised the suspicions of a security guard.

Police said the man was standing “behind the stop, with a bag in his hand.” When the guard asked to examine the contents of the bag, he noticed a bomb and called police.”

Over the past ten months the BBC has promoted a standard ‘explanation’ for Palestinian terrorism which funnels audience attentions towards the subject of ‘the occupation’. As has been noted here throughout that time, that selective framing removes from view issues such as official Palestinian Authority incitement and glorification of terrorism and downplays or erases the often relevant factor of religious ideology.

The investigation into the thwarted attack on users of the Jerusalem light rail system revealed the would-be bomber’s motive.

“On July 15, Ali Abu Hassan entered Israel through a valley outside of the eastern Tsur Baher neighborhood, with the intention of carrying out an attack in the capital as a form of “revenge for visits by tourists and Israeli Jews to the Temple Mount,” police said in a statement.

He was armed with three pipe bombs he had linked together into one large explosive and had covered with nails and screws dipped in rat poison. “In his bag there were also two knives and a cellphone,” police said Tuesday.”

Since last autumn the BBC has consistently avoided informing its audiences about the Temple Mount related incitement propagated by even the highest Palestinian Authority officials.Abbas filthy feet

“The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours… and they have no right to defile it with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.” [Official PA TV, Sept. 16, 2015 and official website of PA Chairman Abbas, Sept. 16, 2015]

That BBC policy however goes back further than the particular wave of terror which began last autumn, with the corporation long having refrained from providing its audiences with any meaningful reporting on the religious ideology which lies behind the frequently seen violent opposition to visits by non-Muslims at a site of significance to all three Abrahamic religions. 

As long as the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” continues to employ that policy of self-censorship, this is obviously one “international issue” on which BBC audiences will continue to be sold short.

Inaccuracy in BBC’s Fatah profile exposed

A political party which solicited votes in an upcoming election anywhere in the world by boasting that it had murdered thousands of people would no doubt make BBC headlines. Anywhere in the world, that is, except for Ramallah.

Ahead of the municipal elections in PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip scheduled for October (which the BBC still has not reported), Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party put out a Facebook post on its official account – described as follows by PMW which translated the post:

“Fatah yesterday posted a list of Fatah’s achievements on behalf of Palestinians. Significantly, Fatah did not cite even one peace-seeking or peace-promoting achievement, but only listed Fatah acts of violence and terror. Fatah even boasted that its attacks have killed 11,000 Israelis. While Fatah and the PLO have been killing Israelis since 1965, this number is a gross exaggeration.  

One of the acts it bragged about was being the “first Palestinian faction to reach the [Israeli] nuclear reactor.” This is a reference to Fatah’s bus hijacking and murder of three Israeli civilians on their way to work at the Dimona nuclear plant in 1988.” 

The Times of Israel adds:

“The current Fatah post is likely linked to the upcoming Palestinian municipal elections, set for October 8, in which Fatah and Hamas are expected to contest seats in most Palestinian municipalities. In many places in the West Bank, Hamas members will be running without openly identifying with the movement, which has been suppressed by PA forces in areas under its control.”

The BBC’s profile of Fatah tells audiences that:Fatah profile

“Under Arafat’s leadership, the group originally promoted an armed struggle against Israel to create a Palestinian state. But it later recognised Israel’s right to exist, and its leaders have led Palestinian peace talks aimed at reaching a two-state solution.”

And:

“With international pressure mounting, Fatah – though notably not the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – signed a declaration rejecting attacks on civilians in Israel and committing themselves to peace and co-existence.”

A political party which tries to boost its credentials among the electorate by boasting about murdering civilians has obviously not ‘rejected’ attacks on Israeli civilians or ‘committed’ itself to “peace and co-existence”. However, just as the BBC is unlikely to amend those clearly unrealistic statements in its Fatah profile, it is also unlikely to report a story which contradicts its adopted narrative.

Related Articles:

BBC News misleads audiences on Fatah incitement map

BBC continues to ignore PA’s glorification of terrorism

BBC News belatedly reports fatal terror attack, ignores praise from Abbas’ Fatah

BBC News avoids reporting Fatah Day rallies for third year running

BBC’s Knell whitewashes terror in re-run of Palestinian teacher story

When the BBC reported back in March on a prize-winning Palestinian teacher, it managed to omit some relevant information from the story. Over four months later, the BBC chose to return to that topic with a report from the Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which was aired (from 41:07 here) on the July 29th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ and this time audiences were told – albeit very briefly and belatedly – about the teachers’ strike which Knell and her colleagues had previously ignored.PM 29 7

“Back in March there were angry scenes during a four-week walk-out over pay. Monthly salaries here are just 430 to 600 dollars; that’s less than many other public workers. Schools are badly under-resourced.”

Predictably, Knell did not bother to inform listeners that the Palestinian Authority’s budgetary priorities do include spending millions of dollars a year on monthly stipends for convicted terrorists, some of whom receive more than the teachers’ salaries she quotes.

Knell’s account of the ceremony at which Hanan al Hroub received her award was as follows:

“Ecstatic, she took to the stage at the ceremony in Dubai and lifted the trophy for herself and all Palestinians.”

[recording] “I did it! I won! Falastin [Palestine] won!”

As in the previous BBC report, no mention was made of this:teacher prize story

“Associated Press staff in Dubai where the award ceremony took place reported that:

“As al-Hroub accepted her award, Palestinians in the audience waved their country’s flag and some chanted, fists pumping in the air, “With our souls, our blood, we sacrifice for you Palestine.””

Knell went on to give listeners a sanitised account of the surge in terror attacks which commenced last autumn, erasing all Palestinian responsibility from the picture.

“It was a victory that gave Palestinians hope at a miserable time. Since October last year violence here has flared. [recording of riot] These were recent clashes with Israeli soldiers at the Qalandiya checkpoint in Ramallah. This is a tough environment to grow up in.”

Listeners were then told that:

“Hanan herself comes from this Bethlehem refugee camp. She decided to go into teaching after her family was caught up in a shooting. Her daughters were left traumatised and didn’t get the extra help they needed at school. Now Hanan specialises in working with troubled children. Her classroom is a peaceful place where teamwork, trust and respect are rewarded.”

Although it is not clear why the BBC found it necessary to revisit this story at this time, it is obvious that Yolande Knell found nothing new to add. That is particularly remarkable given that after the peace-loving teacher made the headlines in March, details emerged of her husband’s involvement in terrorism.

“A Palestinian teacher who won a $1 million prize for teaching nonviolence will keep her award even though her husband participated in a terror attack that killed six Israelis.

Hanan al-Hroub received the UK-based Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize at a ceremony in Dubai earlier this month for a curriculum she called “No to Violence.”

Her husband, Omar, served 10 years in an Israeli prison after being convicted as an accomplice in a deadly 1980 bombing attack in Hebron in which the victims were walking home from Friday night Sabbath prayers, The Associated Press reported. Omar al-Hroub was a chemist who provided chemicals needed for making the bombs, the AP reported.”

Since the BBC last reported on this story in March, the terror attack in which the man who became its protagonist’s husband participated has been glorified by Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party on Facebook and in an official Palestinian Authority newspaper.

That, however, is a story which BBC audiences will never hear.

Related Articles:

Tortuous headlines for BBC report on Palestinian teacher’s prize

Will Guardian amend ‘feel-good’ Palestinian teacher story to note husband’s terror attack?  UK Media Watch

 

Another Temple Mount incident ignored by BBC News

BBC reporting of confrontations on Temple Mount has often been selective in the past and so it came as little surprise to see that the corporation elected to ignore this story:Kotel at night 2

“Two members of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf were arrested Wednesday after allegedly attacking Israeli archaeologist Zachi Dvira on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.

A group of six Israeli archaeologists were attacked by eight Waqf members as they toured the holy site, the Hebrew language Ynet website reported. The clash began after the Israeli group refused to leave the compound when ordered to do so by the Waqf personnel.”

A first-hand account of that incident can be found here.

“The Waqf’s demands were unsolicited and absurd, especially when they prevented us from seeking out the police. Officially, the Waqf guards have no authority upon tourists walking in the open courts of the Mount. Their only authority is inside the Mosques, in which tourists are not allowed. The only official authority are the police, and it is sad that these types of incidents are often overlooked due to political concerns and that the Waqf guards can harass innocent tourist.”

Once again we see that audiences do not receive news which does not tie in with the BBC’s prevailing narrative.

Relatedly, we noted here last month that a BBC Trust adviser handling an appeal concerning a BBC report wrote:

“…the Al-Aqsa Mosque is situated very close to, and on the same raised platform as, the Dome of the Rock (under which the ruins of the two Jewish temples are assumed to be buried – although there was ongoing debate about this)” [emphasis added]

We remarked:

“One can only hope that the bolded statement above does not suggest that the BBC subscribes to or accommodates the narrative of ‘Temple denial’ propagated by some PA officials and others.”

The Times of Israel recently published an interview with the Palestinian Authority’s “top cleric”.

“But regarding the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount — known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif — Habbash said the idea that ancient Jewish temples stood where the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem stands today is a myth.

Habbash was unfazed by a 1925 pamphlet on the Temple Mount produced by the Supreme Islamic Council, the body in charge of Muslim community affairs during the British Mandate in Palestine from 1920 to 1948, that states that the Temple Mount is indisputably the former site of Solomon’s temple. While he respects the Jews’ right to their own narrative, Habbash said, there is a “reality on the ground.” […]

Pressed on this point — wasn’t it once the Waqf’s own narrative that Solomon’s temple was on the mount? — Habbash’s response, in short, was this: forget narratives and concentrate on the status quo. “Please, please, don’t push us against the wall” and make this a religious war, he said, in which Israel would find “two billion Muslims as well as two billion Christians against you.” This unveiled threat was delivered in the calmest, nicest way imaginable.

Following the interview, Habbash asked for a copy of the pamphlet. In a statement to The Times of Israel, he questioned the document’s authenticity, saying he has “plenty of reasons to believe that some of the sentences were altered and new phrases and terms were injected in order to make it look like it endorses the Jewish narrative that the area where Haram al-Sharif stands used to be the site of the Temple Mount.””

The ability of BBC audiences to understand the frequently reported tensions surrounding Temple Mount would obviously be enhanced were they informed of the motivations that lie behind the Palestinian tactic of negation of Jewish history in Jerusalem. However, with the BBC increasingly compromising its own impartiality by adopting PLO approved terminology and narrative, it seems unlikely that audiences will be provided with objective information which would contribute to their understanding of that issue anytime soon.

Related Articles:

A Temple Mount incident ignored by BBC News

BBC News ignores latest Temple Mount rioting

BBC News ignores Northern Islamic Movement ban – in English

BBC ignores Jordanian cancellation of US brokered Temple Mount plan

Mapping changes in the terminology used by the BBC to describe Temple Mount