BBC WS reports what the BBC website didn’t on the Argentina football story

As we saw yesterday, a BBC News website report concerning the Argentinian Football Association’s cancellation of a friendly match with Israel framed the background to the decision as being about “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza” and/or the fact that “Palestinians […] were angered by a decision to relocate the game” to Jerusalem.

Although the article was later amended to include the full quote from Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain rather than the truncated version used in earlier editions, the BBC News website still avoided telling its audiences about the threats received by Argentinian players and their families which were – according to the head of the Argentinian Football Association and the Argentinian foreign minister – the real reason for the game’s cancellation.

In contrast, listeners to the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on June 6th heard a more accurate version of the story (from 45:05 here) than the one presented by the BBC News website.

Presenter Tim Franks asked his interviewee – an Israeli journalist “with the Argentinian team at their training camp in Barcelona” – why the match was cancelled.

Franks: “The Argentinian team itself; ehm…why did they decide in the end – or why did their football association decide in the end – that they couldn’t go ahead with this friendly game?”

Emmanuel Elbaz-Phelps replied that “the official explanation was that the association – the football association of Argentina – doesn’t want to take any risk for the players” and also noted that:

Elbaz-Phelps: “But we also heard that the decision came yesterday afternoon [Tuesday, June 5th]  after the players were having a training session in the morning and there were some protesters and they heard them, they saw them and then they read everything going on in the news about the demonstrations also happening in Argentina and the players had this meeting; they had this talk and they decided they won’t go ahead with the game. Some actually told us that Messi was the person who first made the decision and – as the captain – so everybody was behind him. Another version says that he’s the captain but it was a group decision.”

Franks: “Because Lionel Messi himself was singled out by the head of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub, saying if Lionel Messi plays in Jerusalem, we will make sure that he is boycotted, he is targeted around the world.”

Elbaz-Phelps: “Yeah and even more there are reports that threats were made to Messi’s family and to the families of the players.”

Elbaz-Phelps reported having been told that “there were threats on the social media, they got letters and that the players were actually scared about the situation”.

Obviously there are BBC journalists who know that the reason for the cancellation of the match has nothing to do with “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza”. The question that therefore arises is why the BBC News website’s report – which, unlike the Newshour report will remain permanently available to the public – has not been amended accordingly.  

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How BBC News framed the Argentina-Israel football match story

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BBC R4 FOOC report on Palestinian music promotes one-sided politics

The May 31st edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ included an item by freelance journalist Robin Denselow which was introduced by presenter Kate Adie (from 17:06 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Adie: “The history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is long, complicated and contentious. And both sides want their version of that history to dominate as they try to win over foreign diplomats, politicians and the wider world. Violence brings one set of headlines. Cultural events and exchanges are seen as another way of achieving that. A festival was held in the West Bank recently aiming to give the growing Palestinian music scene a major boost and to amplify the voices of ordinary Palestinians. Robin Denselow was in Ramallah.”

Listeners certainly did hear one dominant, context-free narrative during the next five minutes with Denselow repeatedly referring to ‘Palestine’, thus breaching the BBC’s ‘style guide’ which states:

“…you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.”

Audiences were told that Palestinians are “so isolated from the rest of the world” and of course no BBC report from PA controlled territory would be complete without a mention of “checkpoints”.

“The young audience had travelled to the Palestinian Music Expo – or PMX – from right across the West Bank, negotiating the Israeli checkpoints on the way.”

Listeners were told that foreign visitors to that music festival:

“…were welcomed by the Palestinian minister of culture, Ihab Bseiso, for whom PMX clearly had political significance. Promoting culture in Palestine is absolutely crucial, he told me. It’s a form of resistance, protecting the national heritage. The minister, who enthused about the years he spent studying at Cardiff University, gave us a personal tour of an uncompleted but palatial new building on a Ramallah hilltop. Originally intended as a grand guest-house for visiting dignitaries, it’s to be Palestine’s new national library and cultural hub.”

Denselow refrained from telling listeners that the building originally had another function too:

“Originally, the guest palace in Ramallah was intended to serve as the residence for the Palestinian president and to house international diplomats, leaders and delegations during visits.

However, a senior Palestinian official was quoted as saying that Abbas decided to remain in his own home out of fear that the extravagant 4,700 square meter palace, which cost 6 million dollars to build, would evoke negative reactions among the Palestinian public.”

Again paraphrasing his host Bseiso, Denselow told listeners that:

“He claimed that what is happening on the cultural front in Palestine is a miracle it’s exceptionally hard to achieve under occupation. And he went on to recite the everyday problems of checkpoints and restrictions on movement.”

Denselow of course did not bother to remind Radio 4 audiences that checkpoints and “restrictions on movement” did not exist until the Palestinians chose to launch the second Intifada terror war. He went on to describe excursions without clarifying whether the organisers were the Palestinian Authority or his PMX hosts.

“They organised a trip to show their foreign visitors their side of the conflict. We were driven out through Qalandiya checkpoint, where Israeli troops looked through out passports, and then taken to the bitterly divided city of Hebron.”

At that point it would of course have been helpful to listeners to have been reminded of the fact that Hebron is “divided” because twenty-one years ago the Palestinian Authority agreed to divide it into two areas: H1 under PA control and H2 (roughly 20% of the city) under Israeli control. That reminder was not forthcoming and neither was any mention of the ancient Hebron Jewish community or the massacre of 1929.

“In the Israeli-controlled sector settlers live alongside the Palestinians who complained to us how many of their shops have been closed, how they need nets to protect their market from rocks thrown by settlers and about the streets where they claimed they’re now banned from walking.”

The fact that those shops – located on one street – were closed due to Palestinian violence during the Second Intifada was not communicated to listeners. With a nod towards the BBC’s supposed editorial standards on impartiality, Denselow then inaccurately told listeners that the victims of Palestinian violence in Hebron have been exclusively “Israeli soldiers”.

“Over the years of conflict Palestinians have attacked Israeli soldiers with knives and rocks too and the small settler community says it also fears for its safety.”

Stories such as that of ten month-old Shalhevet Pass – murdered by a Palestinian sniper – or thirteen year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel clearly do not fit into Denselow’s narrative. His story then took a bizarre turn:

“But being seen here with a Palestinian guide was clearly dangerous. A car – apparently driven by an angry settler – narrowly missed our group then did a U-turn and drove back at us again at speed. One record industry executive would almost certainly have been hit if he hadn’t been pulled back.”

Neither Israeli nor Palestinian media outlets have any record of such an event having taken place in Hebron around the time of the PMX event between April 11th and 13th.  Denselow provided no evidence to support his guess that the car was “driven by an angry settler” but promoted it to BBC audiences regardless.

Interestingly, a similar claim is to be found in a post shared on the PMX Facebook page on April 18th. That post was written by one Younes Arar – who was apparently guiding Denselow’s group on their visit to Hebron.

Younes Arar is involved with an NGO called ‘Frontline Defenders’ and the co-founder of a campaign against what it calls “illegal Israeli settlements in Hebron” under the slogan ”Dismantle the Ghetto, Take Settlers Out of Hebron”. According to the NGO’s website he is also “the Director of Hebron section of the Colonization and Wall Resistance Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation – a grass-roots extension of the Palestinian Ministry on the Wall and Settlements Affairs”. As can be determined by a quick perusal of the activist’s Twitter account, Younes Arar is not particularly committed to accuracy, facts or a peaceful two-state solution to the Arab Israeli conflict.

Interestingly, the prolific Tweeter Younes Arar made no mention on his Twitter account of that alleged incident in Hebron at the time.

Denselow went on to describe another trip, again erasing from his story the Palestinian terrorism that made the building of the anti-terrorist fence necessary.

“Other excursions included a visit to the overcrowded Shuafat refugee camp hidden away behind walls and a checkpoint in Jerusalem.”

When he finally got round to describing the music festival itself, the earlier motif of Palestinian “national heritage” went somewhat awry.

“From jazz to satirical political rock songs, Balkan-Palestinian fusion and angry hip-hop. Musicians from Gaza had been refused travel permits to attend but there was an extraordinary video from a rapper who calls himself MC Gaza filmed amid the violent and bloody ‘Great March of Return’ protests on the border with Israel.”

Denselow did not bother to tell Radio 4 listeners that the video he described as “extraordinary” advocates the destruction of Israel. Describing another band, he went on:

“‘This is the only way to fight back against the occupation’ band member Adnan Jubran commented on stage. Later he told me ‘it’s trying to delete our culture. This is how we say no’.”

Near the beginning of his report Denselow stated that one of the festival’s purposes is:

“…to give those [foreign] visitors a distinctively Palestinian view of the place and its problems.”

There can be no doubt that Denselow and the other foreign visitors got exactly that. Unfortunately however, so did BBC Radio 4 listeners – with no provision of essential context and no regard for the BBC’s supposed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.  

 

BBC website recycles article, ignores anti-Israel image

On May 24th 2018 an article by Yolande Knell appeared on the BBC News website under the headline “Palestinians face uncertainties over Abbas succession“.

Readers may recall that towards the end of October 2016, the BBC News website published an article by Yolande Knell with the exact same title which was discussed here.

In fact the May 2018 article uses the same URL as the one published in October 2016 and recycles the bulk of its content, with minor amendments made to reflect recent changes and events.

At the beginning of the new version of the report, Knell writes:

“Wearing an elegant dressing gown, the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, is shown walking unaided along the corridor of Ramallah’s best private hospital.

A family photograph has him sitting upright in bed casually studying a newspaper.

A hospital official said the 83-year-old leader – who had surgery on his ear last week – now had inflammation in his lung but was “responding to the treatment quickly and recovering”.

The message was clearly meant to quell swirling rumours of the president’s imminent demise.

However, his latest medical scares are a reminder of how Palestinian politics remains in a critical condition.” [emphasis added]

Unlike some other media outlets reporting the same story, including the Times of Israel, the BBC did not show its audiences that so-called “family photograph” of Abbas “casually studying a newspaper”.  

“Pictures and video of 83-year-old Abbas walking around the hospital and reading a newspaper were published late Monday, in an apparent attempt to calm rumors that his condition was more serious than reported.  Independent media outlets were banned from entering the hospital.

Hadashot News pointed out that the newspaper Abbas was pictured reading prominently carried a large cartoon on its back page, facing the camera, showing an Israeli soldier taking a baby’s milk away from her and ramming poison down her throat instead.”

The newspaper in question is the Palestinian Authority’s official daily.

Given that during the last six months alone the BBC has on four separate occasions failed to provide its audiences with a full account of offensive speeches made by Mahmoud Abbas – and, relatedly, that it serially avoids reporting on incitement from Palestinian leaders and officials – it is not at all surprising that the Palestinian Authority president’s decision to be photographed touting a grotesque anti-Israel cartoon in a newspaper approved by his regime was not considered newsworthy.

Related Articles:

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BBC reports the parts of Abbas’ OIC speech that fit its narrative

BBC censors parts of Mahmoud Abbas speech once again

Another BBC makeover on a speech by Mahmoud Abbas

 

Another Abbas speech and more selective BBC reporting

Between December 2017 and February 2018 the BBC News website failed to provide audiences with a full account of speeches made by the Palestinian Authority president on three separate occasions:

BBC reports the parts of Abbas’ OIC speech that fit its narrative

BBC censors parts of Mahmoud Abbas speech once again

Another BBC makeover on a speech by Mahmoud Abbas

When Mahmoud Abbas made yet another offensive and historically illiterate speech at a rare PLO convention on April 30th (which was subsequently condemned by a wide range of parties including Israel, Germany, the UK, France, the UN, the EU, US envoys, Holocaust scholars and even the New York Times and the Guardian), the BBC’s coverage appeared at first glance to be more comprehensive.

On May 1st the BBC News website published a report headlined “Holocaust row: Abbas accused of anti-Semitism“. In the body of the report the BBC was similarly incapable of informing readers in its own words of the anti-Semitic nature of Abbas’ remarks and instead relied on observations from third parties.

“Remarks by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas about the Holocaust have been condemned as anti-Semitic by Israeli politicians and rights activists. […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman said the remarks were “anti-Semitic and pathetic”. […]

In New York, the Anti-Defamation League condemned Mr Abbas’s “anti-Semitic assertions”.”

Under the sub-heading “What did Abbas say exactly?” the BBC report described Abbas’ statements as follows:

“Carried live on Palestinian TV, the 90-minute speech in Arabic included a section on the Palestinian leader’s view of the history of European Jewry, based on what he said were books by “Jewish Zionist authors”.

Jews in eastern and western Europe, he said, had been periodically subjected to massacres over the centuries, culminating in the Holocaust.

“But why did this used to happen?” he asked. “They say, ‘It is because we are Jews.’ I will bring you three Jews, with three books who say that enmity towards Jews was not because of their religious identity but because of their social function.

“This is a different issue. So the Jewish question that was widespread throughout Europe was not against their religion but against their social function which relates to usury [unscrupulous money-lending] and banking and such.”

Mr Abbas also denied that Ashkenazi Jews – Jews from Germany and north-eastern Europe – were actually Semitic, saying, “They have no relation to Semitic people.””

The BBC did not however bother to clarify that Abbas’ falsehoods did not stop there and it failed to inform readers that he also touted the long discredited claim according to which Ashkenazi Jews are descendants of the ‘Khazar kingdom’, that he denied historic Jewish links to Israel and described the State of Israel as a “colonialist enterprise”, that he promoted the falsehood that Jews in Arab lands had not suffered discrimination and persecution or that he claimed that a Jewish bank had collaborated with the Nazi regime.

In other words, rather than telling readers – as claimed – what Abbas said “exactly”, the BBC actually gave a selective account of his speech to audiences who have in the past repeatedly been denied information concerning similar outbursts from the Palestinian leader that the corporation frequently touts as a ‘moderate’.

Towards the end of that article readers found a typically euphemistic description of the background to the breakdown of the 2013/14 round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians:

“The last direct peace talks took place in 2014, when Barack Obama was in the White House. They broke down amid acrimony.”

As has so often been the case in the past, the BBC refrained from clarifying to readers that those talks came to an end after the Palestinian Authority chose ‘reconciliation’ with Hamas over an end to the conflict with Israel and breached agreements reached before the talks commenced.

Three days after the appearance of that report, on May 4th, the BBC News website published an additional article titled “Palestinian leader Abbas apologises for Holocaust remarks” which similarly presented a selective description of Abbas’ statements.

“His televised speech included a section on his view of the history of European Jewry, based on what he said were books by “Jewish Zionist authors”.

He said that, over the centuries, Jews in eastern and western Europe had been periodically subjected to massacres, culminating in the Holocaust.

“But why did this used to happen?” he asked. “They say, ‘It is because we are Jews.’ I will bring you three Jews, with three books who say that enmity towards Jews was not because of their religious identity but because of their social function.

“This is a different issue. So the Jewish question that was widespread throughout Europe was not against their religion but against their social function which relates to usury [unscrupulous money-lending] and banking and such.””

The article failed to clarify to readers that Abbas did not retract any of the false claims made in his speech or that his belated ‘apology‘ was directed at “people of the Jewish faith” rather than the Jewish people because he and others of his ilk continue to deny that the Jews are a nation.

Once again we see that the BBC has sidestepped an opportunity to enhance its audiences’ understanding of factors such as the Palestinian erasure of Jewish history and refusal to recognise the Jewish state that do not fit into the narrative it has chosen to promote regarding the ‘reasons’ for the failure of the so-called peace process to yield results.

Related Articles:

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BBC News silent on Abbas’ rejection of Jewish state

 

 

BBC’s preferred terminology hinders audience understanding

The April 17th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outlook‘ included an item by Jerusalem bureau correspondent Yolande Knell (from 37:30 here) about a dog shelter in Beit Sahour which has been the topic of reports by other media outlets in the past.

Beit Sahour is located in Area A and has been under the complete control of the Palestinian Authority since 1995. However that relevant fact was not mentioned at all throughout the item, which was introduced by presenter Jo Fidgen using the term ‘occupied West Bank’.

Fidgen: “On nearly every street in the occupied West Bank you see stray dogs wandering about or scrapping or lounging in the sun. From time to time they’re hit by cars or abused by humans. And then what? There are vets in the West Bank but many of the surgeries are poorly equipped and anyway they’re more geared up for treating farm animals than pets. But one Palestinian woman has made it her mission to look after them. Our reported Yolande Knell went to the West Bank dog shelter to meet her.”

The BBC Academy’s style guide recognises that the geo-political divisions in the region are “complicated”:

“…the phrase ‘Palestinian Territories’ refers to the areas that fall under the administration of the Palestinian Authority […]. These are complicated to work out because of the division of the West Bank into three areas…” 

One would therefore have thought that following Fidgen’s use of the unhelpful broad brush term ‘occupied West Bank’, listeners would be given a more precise description of the location of the story they were hearing – but that was not the case.

Knell: “We’re on a patch of wasteland at the edge of Beit Sahour, just outside Bethlehem.”

Knell: “Just give us an idea of the problem here in the Palestinian areas…”

That meant that when listeners later heard the answer to a question posed by Knell to her interviewee, they had no idea that the “government” to which she referred is the Palestinian Authority.

Knell: “What needs to be done here to change attitudes towards animal welfare?”

Babish: “It needs time, it needs also the government to support this.”

The same BBC Academy style guide recognises the political implications of the term ‘occupied West Bank’:

“It is, however, also advisable not to overuse the phrase within a single report in case it is seen as expressing support for one side’s view.” 

Nevertheless, the fact that the BBC chooses to use that particular terminology – together with the fact that it more often than not fails to adequately clarify to audiences that the vast majority of the Palestinian population in what it terms the ‘occupied West Bank’ lives under the rule of the Palestinian Authority – does not contribute to audience understanding of stories such as this.

Another aspect of this report may also have confused listeners.

Babish: “Basically I go to Israeli clinics and hospitals because they have the medical labs, they have x-rays, they have efficient doctors. Here we lack all of these so that’s why I take the dogs over there.”

Knell: “Every week Diana goes to Israel to try and find homes for her dogs.”

BBC audiences have of course been told for years that Palestinians suffer from “major constrictions on freedom of movement“, that “freedom of movement is also restricted by hundreds of checkpoints, roadblocks and other obstacles“, that “Israeli troops have also […] severely restricted the movement of Palestinian civilians” and of “the challenges of mobility in the West Bank“.

Now however they suddenly hear about a Palestinian woman who not only goes to Israel “every week” but also takes sick and injured dogs with her for treatment. Obviously BBC audience understanding would benefit from less simplistic portrayals of that topic too.

Related Articles:

Four BBC radio reports on the same topic promote politicised themes

 

BBC News uses ‘Israel says’ instead of fact checking

On the evening of April 11th the BBC News website published an article titled “Dublin lord mayor beats Israel ban due to ‘spelling error’” on its Middle East page.

“Israel has launched an investigation into how the lord mayor of Dublin got into the country despite a ban.

The interior ministry announced on Tuesday that Mícheál Mac Donncha would not be allowed to enter on account of his ties to a pro-Palestinian group which advocates boycotting Israel.

But Mr Mac Donncha tweeted that he was already in the occupied West Bank after flying into Tel Aviv’s airport.

Officials are reported to have spelt the mayor’s name wrong on a watch list.”

Under the subheading “Why was the mayor banned?”, readers were told that:

Israeli officials say Mr Mac Donncha, a Sinn Féin city councillor, has ties to the Dublin-based Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC).

It supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which campaigns for a complete boycott of Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians.

Israel says the BDS movement opposes the country’s very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism.” [emphasis added]

There is of course nothing novel about the BBC avoiding informing audiences in its own words what the BDS campaign is all about: for years we have been documenting on these pages how the corporation has serially failed to provide an accurate and impartial portrayal of the aims and agenda of the BDS campaign – even as it has frequently provided that campaign and some of its supporters with free PR.

Notably though, the BBC also presented Mícheál Mac Donncha’s ties to the IPSC as merely something that ‘Israel says’ is the case.

A very brief internet search would have shown the BBC that since his election less than a year ago, Mac Donncha has taken part in several IPSC organised events including the launch (held at the Lord Mayor’s official residence) of a BDS promoting calendar produced by the anti-Israel group in November 2017.

“Speaking at the launch of the calendar, Lord Mayor of Dublin Mícheál Mac Donncha said: “As we close this 50th year of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, it is my honour as Lord Mayor to launch the latest ‘Life In Palestine’ calendar produced by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The calendar provides a valuable insight into the daily and historical injustices faced by the Palestinian people as they struggle for the freedom, justice, equality and peace that has been so long denied them. The Calendar also has lots of useful information about companies and institutions that profit from Israel’s military occupation and war crimes, and, importantly, how to avoid spending money that will help them profit further.””

In December 2017 Mac Donncha spoke at a protest organised by the IPSC outside the US embassy.

Just last week – again complete with ‘keffiyeh’ scarf – he took part in a demonstration in support of the Hamas-organised ‘Great Return March’.

In other words, the BBC’s qualification of his ties to the ISPC by means use of the words “Israeli officials say” is entirely superfluous and misleading to audiences.

The purpose of Mac Donncha’s visit to the Middle East was described by the BBC as follows:

“Mr Mac Donncha also announced that he would travel to the West Bank on Tuesday to attend a conference on the status of the city of Jerusalem at the invitation of the Palestinian Authority.”

Here is the Lord Mayor of Dublin sitting right below an image of Nazi sympathiser and collaborator Haj Amin al Husseini at that Ramallahconference‘.

Photo credit: COGAT

Now that’s a picture that BBC audiences are highly unlikely to see.

Related Articles:

BDS campaigner’s falsehoods go unchallenged on BBC World Service

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2017

Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at Turkish operations in northern Syria and Iraq.

“As the earliest and most consistent supporter of the Syrian Sunni rebellion, the Turkish leader stood to appear humiliated by the final eclipse of their cause. The Russians, by permitting the Turks and their rebel foot soldiers to enter Afrin, have allowed Erdogan to salvage some dignity from his situation. In affording him this concession (against the will of the Assad regime), Moscow has served its broader goal of drawing the Turks further away from their already severely eroded alliance with the West.”

2) Palestinian Media Watch has details of the PA’s payment of salaries to terrorists under its new budget.

“In the same week that the United States passed the Taylor Force Act, which cuts off nearly all US aid to the Palestinian Authority if it continues paying salaries to terrorist prisoners and allowances to families of terrorist “Martyrs,” the PA publicized the main parts of its 2018 budget. In open defiance of the US, other donor countries, and Israel, the PA’s new budget shows it is continuing to reward terror. The amount the PA has budgeted to spend on the two categories that reward terror (salaries to prisoners and allowances to families of “Martyrs” and wounded) is 7.47% of the total operational budget. The amount equals 44% of the funding the PA hopes to receive in foreign aid in 2018, which is 2.79 billion shekels according to the budget.”

3) At the Tablet Liel Leibovitz discusses the background to the ‘Great Return March’.

“Having withdrawn from the strip in 2005, Israel no longer has any territorial claims on Gaza; but Gaza, as this weekend makes painfully clear, still has territorial claims on Israel. In its continuous attacks on their neighbors to the north, and in its most recent efforts to cross into Israel, Hamas has again proven what the organization’s charter so clearly states, namely that its singular goal is the utter and absolute destruction of the Jewish state. It wants all of the land, not peace or coexistence or any other sensible and reasonable goal, which is why any territorial compromise on Israel’s behalf is nothing more than an invitation to the next, even bloodier conflict.”

4) The same topic is the subject of an article by Eli Lake at Bloomberg View.

“…even if Hamas were committed to nonviolence – which it clearly is not – its aims should horrify Western progressives and conservatives alike. Hamas does not seek a two-state solution; it seeks to replace the world’s only Jewish state with one ruled by fanatics. The title of the weekend’s event, “The March of Return,” is a giveaway. The idea is that every Palestinian family and its descendants have a right to return to the Israeli territory that Palestinians fled during the 1948 war for independence. Such a return would overwhelm the existing Jewish majority.” 

 

BBC Radio 4 dusts off the ‘expert’ hats and ‘disproportionate’ meme

When, in July 2014, a BBC presenter chided an Israeli spokesman for carrying out a military operation in the Gaza Strip rather than trying to arrest members of Hamas using what she termed “surgical strikes of the arresting kind” we noted on these pages that:

“One of the recurrent phenomena associated with media coverage of outbreaks of conflict in this region is the proliferation of journalists who suddenly transform into self-appointed ‘experts’ in military strategy and ‘international law’…”

That practice was evident once again in the March 31st edition of the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme ‘Today which included two items relating to the previous day’s events on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip when mass rioting took place under the guise of a ‘protest’ dubbed the ‘Great Return March’.

In the introduction to the first of those items (from 09:04 here) listeners heard presenter Justin Webb unquestioningly quote information supplied by Hamas – one of the co-organisers of the propaganda stunt. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Webb: “First to events on the border between Gaza and Israel. According to Palestinian officials there are 16 dead, hundreds injured on that border – the worst violence since the war of 2014.”

Webb then brought in the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell who accurately stated that not only is Hamas involved in the organisation of this six-week ‘protest’ but is financing it. Knell also accurately pointed out that the camps set up at five locations by “the Hamas authorities” are “a few hundred meters from the border fence” and that the violent incidents of March 30th began when crowds “started to approach the border fence with Israel” with “people throwing stones and firebombs” and “tampering with the fence”.

However Knell then also went on to unquestioningly promote information supplied by Hamas which there is no evidence of the BBC having independently verified.

Knell: “And there were really hundreds of people who were injured…ahm…along this 40 mile-long Israel-Gaza border. Many of them had bullet wounds.”

Justin Webb then chipped in with his commentary on a filmed incident:

Webb: “Yeah because the IDF have issued a statement saying that there was an infiltration attempt by three terrorists but what we see – what people who were there will have seen – is not a targeted attack on people who are making a concerted effort to get through but just sort of firing through the…through the fence.”

Later on in the conversation Knell stated that “we have to expect further flare-ups” because:

Knell: In the coming weeks we’re going to have Israel celebrating what it sees as its independence day […] but then you have that very controversial move of the US embassy expected on the 14th of May, just ahead of that day that the Palestinians call their Nakba day: the catastrophe day.”

Later on in the same programme (from 01:09:59 here) Justin Webb introduced the second item on the same topic which began with a barely audible telephone interview with PA official Sabri Saydam.

Webb: “Dr Saydam; what is your version of what happened at the border and led to the deaths of 16 people and the wounding of hundreds more?”

Saydam: “As you know, yesterday marked the anniversary – the 42nd anniversary – since the Land Day where 13 Palestinians [sic- actually 6 Arab-Israelis] were shot dead in 1976, which is an annual demonstration arranged by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and this was arranged again yesterday. As you know this year marks 70 years since the Palestinian Nakba – the catastrophe – and almost 51 years since the 1967 war so this was an expression of discontent, a display total despair that exists in the West Bank and Gaza for the prevailance [sic] of the Israeli occupation – the longest occupation [sic] in modern times. So people who are marching in peace, protesting against occupation, Israel [inaudible] with force.”

Webb: “Are you saying that people who were peacefully protesting were fired on? There is evidence of that, is there?”

Saydam: “Absolutely and you can look at the footage that you broadcasted and other networks and you can see that they were peacefully marching. There was no confrontation using armed guns, machine guns. There was no application of violence. If anything, they were carrying just flags and marching towards the fence. This is Gaza where 2 million people are deprived of basic needs and this is Gaza that lives under occupation same as West Bank and East Jerusalem and the continuation of the occupation will yield the results of [inaudible] saw yesterday.”

Webb could at this point have clarified to listeners that the Gaza Strip has not been ‘occupied’ for nearly thirteen years. He could have asked the PA minister about his government’s cutting of electricity and medical care and supplies for the deprived people of Gaza as ways to put pressure on Hamas. He could also – given the fact that this publicity stunt organised by Hamas and other Gaza terror factions rests on the so-called ‘right of return’ – have asked Sabri Saydam if he agrees with that demand aimed at destroying the Jewish state – especially seeing as just over a year ago the BBC provided a platform for Saydam’s repeated insistence that all Palestinians support the two-state solution.

Webb however did none of that. Instead he twice asked whether or not the people taking part in the propaganda stunt should “go home…for their own safety” and listeners heard Saydam promote the falsehood that “this is not a Hamas orchestrated kind of demonstration”.

After Webb had asked a question concerning “the charge…that you are cynically using the lives of civilians, including children, to create the kind of tensions and violence that focuses the attention of the world on this area”, Saydam suddenly disappeared from the broadcast.

Webb then introduced the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, and that interview – in which listeners witnessed the return of the well-worn BBC favourite ‘disproportionate’ – can also be heard here.

Webb: “Your troops have fired on civilians, on children. They’ve fired through a fence. That is – is it not? – indefensible.”

After Regev noted that “we can’t allow the Hamas activists to tear down the border fence and enter Israel”, Webb donned his ‘military expert’ hat while misleading listeners about the border fence.

Webb: “You say ‘Hamas activists to tear down the border’: what – and Dr Saydam referred to this – what you’ve seen online in the footage is quite young children, some of whom have been shot, who are not capable of tearing down…this is an electric fence, isn’t it?”

Regev: “You saw attempts to physically destroy the fence. You saw attempts…”

Webb [interrupts]: “But attempts that would not have been successful.”

After Regev had disagreed, pointing out that the ‘protests’ were not spontaneous, Webb interrupted him again.

Webb: “Yeah but whoever it was who sent them, whether they were there voluntarily these youngsters…”

Regev: “They weren’t. It was orchestrated.”

Webb: “Well alright. Even if it was orchestrated, to shoot them, to kill 16 of them, to injure hundreds according to the United Nations with live ammunition – that is not proportionate, is it?”

The United Nations got its information on the casualties from the Hamas-run ministry of health in Gaza but listeners were not given that relevant information.

Regev explained methods of crowd control and again referred to attempted infiltrations but Webb interrupted him once again and yet again misrepresented the border fence.

Webb: “But you have troops – sorry to interrupt you on that – but just thinking about this border, we’re talking about an electrified fence. We’re then talking about a lot of troops behind it – way before there are any Israeli civilians. The idea that there’s someone coming through and about to kill Israeli civilians is just fantasy, isn’t it?”

Some of the Israeli communities in the area are of course located less that a mile from the border that Webb ignorantly described as “way before there are any Israeli civilians”.

Regev: “That’s exactly what they want to do.”

Webb then put on his ‘laws of armed combat expert’ hat:

Webb: “Yes it might be what they want to do but I’m saying to you that actually they would not have been capable of doing it and therefore killing them – particularly killing kids, people running around next to the fence – is disproportionate and probably illegal.”

After Regev had pointed out that if the demonstration had remained in the camps set up – as Yolande Knell previously noted – several hundred meters away from the border nothing would have happened, clarified that Israel withdrew from Gaza over a decade ago and pointed out that Hamas denies Israel’s right to exist, Webb went on to downplay Hamas’ role in the agitprop but made no effort to inform listeners of the involvement of additional terror factions such as the PIJ and DFLP.

Webb: “Dr Saydam was saying it’s not just Hamas – it’s much wider than that and he was pointing out that he’s not a member of Hamas but actually it is a widely felt feeling among the Palestinians that this is the right demonstration at the right time and that they have a right to make it. It’s not just Hamas.”

Following a ‘question’ about a potential UN investigation Webb continued:

Webb: “You have…I mean this is not the first time that Israel has found itself in this situation where you are accused of using hugely disproportionate force and I think what some people – including some friends of Israel – would say is why do you not learn from what happens in these situations? Why is there an inability actually in a sense in practical terms to defend yourself, to defend that border fence, without using live rounds?”

Regev again explained that non-lethal crowd control measures had initially been used before Webb went on:

Webb: “You see you keep saying armed members of Hamas. The people who were killed – almost all of them – and the people who were injured were not armed members of Hamas – were they? – and I don’t think you’re claiming they were. They were civilians.”

That of course is not the case – ten of the sixteen dead on that first day belonged to terror factions – but when Regev tried to reply, Webb once again interrupted him and once again uncritically parroted claims put out by the terror group that co-organised the propaganda stunt.

Webb: “But there are hundreds of people in hospital with gunshot wounds – they weren’t armed members of Hamas, were they?”

The impression of events that Justin Webb was trying to communicate to BBC Radio 4 listeners is blatantly obvious. Webb’s portrayal includes only ‘peaceful protesters’ and “kids… running around next to the fence” and his quoted – but unverified – casualty figures are sourced (as has been the case all too often in the past) from a terror organisation that is party to the violence.

Equally unsurprising is the opportunistic dusting off of the ‘disproportionate’ charge and the miraculous but entirely predictable transformation of a breakfast news show presenter into a self-appointed expert on military strategy and the laws of armed combat.

That, after all, is a pattern that has regularly been seen at the BBC in the past when the terror faction that rules the Gaza Strip has initiated violence. 

 

US Taylor Force Act not newsworthy for the BBC

Those getting their news from the BBC News website will not be aware that late last week the United States passed legislation relating to the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists and the families of terrorists.

“The Taylor Force Act, legislation that cuts American funding for the Palestinian Authority over its payments to convicted terrorists and their families, officially became a law on Friday evening, after President Donald Trump signed a large budget bill that the act was a part of. The PA protested the passage of the legislation, which is named after Taylor Force, an American citizen murdered in a terror attack in Tel Aviv two years ago.

The bill was first introduced by Republican lawmakers in March of last year. Over the last 12 months, it has gone through a modification process that produced wide bipartisan support for it. The final version that became part of the wider budget bill includes a number of exceptions for projects that will continue to receive American funding, such as hospitals in East Jerusalem, wastewater programs and child vaccination initiatives.

It should be noted that the legislation will not affect the budget that the United States provides to the Palestinian Authority’s security and intelligence forces, which is separate from funding that goes toward dealing with civilian issues within the PA. […]

In a statement it [the White House] said that it “commends the Congress for including the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits most U.S. foreign assistance that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority (PA) until the PA ends the abhorrent practice of providing payments to terrorists and their families in reward for acts of violence.””

Visitors to the BBC News website have to date not seen any reporting on that topic either on the US or Middle East pages. Even the predictable reaction from BBC regular Husam Zomlot did not receive any coverage.

“The PLO excoriated Congress on Friday for passing the Taylor Force Act, a law that threatens to freeze State Department funds to the Palestinian Authority unless it ends its longstanding practice of compensating terrorists and the families of terrorists convicted in Israeli courts.

The PLO envoy to Washington, Husam Zomlot, dismissed the effort as politically motivated. The pressure “does not work, and severely damages the prospects for peace in the Middle East,” he said. […]

The bill, Zomlot said, “punishes” the PA, “which is the only agency committed to peace and nonviolence, and undermines the American-Palestinian bilateral relationship and decades of US investments in the two-state solution.

“The Taylor Force Act represents the most recent effort in this 30-year-old trend of legislations that deliberately targets the Palestinian people,” Zomlot continued, accusing the US Congress of “flagrant bias.””

As regular readers know, the subject of the PA’s payment of salaries to terrorists is one that the BBC more often than not chooses to avoid, despite its relevance to members of the public in the many countries which donate aid to the Palestinian Authority – including of course Britain. Although familiarity with this issue is also key to BBC audience understanding of both the eternal PA budget deficit and the background to Palestinian terrorism, as we see the corporation continues to under-report the topic.  

Related Articles:

BBC News reports on three terror attacks without using the word terror

A new backgrounder on a topic disregarded by the BBC

Issue neglected by BBC is topic of Knesset bill

A BBC backgrounder claims ‘sketchy’ evidence of PA terror rewards

 

Weekend long read

1) MEMRI has published an analysis of Palestinian Authority schoolbooks.

“In July 2017, the Palestinian Authority (PA) schoolbooks for the 2017-18 school year were published. Some of the books are new, and some remained unchanged. An examination of the middle-school books for Islamic Education, some of which have been replaced, shows a significant increase in focus on the early Islamic tenets of shahada (martyrdom), fidaa (self-sacrifice) and tadhiya (sacrifice) as part of jihad for the sake of Allah, and their modern manifestations as part of the Palestinian struggle against Israel.”

2) BICOM has produced a briefing on Iranian forces and Shia militias in Syria.

“The BICOM research team has produced a briefing identifying the location of the Iranian military bases in Syria, detailing the role of the various Shia militias in the Syrian War and explaining the role of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in the conflict.

Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Iran has sent thousands of troops and Shiite volunteers to support President Bashar al-Assad. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, Syrian National Defence Forces, Hezbollah, and several other Shiite militias have played a major role in the regime consolidating control and regaining territory, especially in the Battle for Aleppo in 2016. Iran has also reportedly established between 10-13 military bases across Syria.”

3) At the Times of Israel Avi Issacharoff discusses terrorism and the upcoming anniversaries.

“At the end of this month, huge protests are being planned for “Land Day” under the theme of “processions of the great return,” which will likely feature Palestinians storming the West Bank security barrier as well as Israel’s border with Gaza.

These protests will be followed by similar events to commemorate Nakba (“Catastrophe”) Day — how Palestinians refer to Israel’s Independence Day — which falls around the same time as the holy month of Ramadan this year.”

4) Shmuel Rosner writes about “The Truth of Deir Yassin“.

“What happened in Deir Yassin in April 9, 1948, became a seminal event of Israel’s War of Independence. This Palestinian village was located to the west of Jerusalem, and was attacked by Jewish fighters of the Irgun, one of Israel’s pre-state underground forces (the main force, Haganah, was the established force; Irgun was an opposition force, under the leadership of Menachem Begin).

The battle was bloody and many Arabs were killed, including women and children. It was followed by a propaganda campaign, claiming that what happened in Deir Yassin was a massacre. This campaign was very much responsible for the decision by many thousands of Arabs to flee their homes. Their decedents are today’s Palestinian “refugees.””