BBC WS isolates narrative from context in another Gaza Corona report

As we have previously documented (see ‘related articles’ below), in the past couple of weeks the BBC provided its audiences with preemptive reporting on the topic of Coronavirus in the Gaza Strip and reports on the first two cases diagnosed there.

On March 26th seven additional cases were confirmed and the final item in that day’s afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was billed as follows in the synopsis:

“And will Gaza’s health care system be able to stem the spread of the virus?”

Presenter James Menendez introduced the report (from 48:41 here) using a novel euphemism to describe a terrorist organisation and promoting talking points already seen in earlier reports.

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

Menendez: “Covid 19’s shown its power to overwhelm well-funded health systems in the richest countries. How much greater the risk then when those medical services are weak to begin with and when people are packed into spaces in which calls for social distancing or self-isolation are all but futile. Gaza is the tiny strip of land between Israel and Egypt into which 2 million Palestinians are crammed under the governance of the internationally shunned Hamas movement. Matthias Schmale is the Gaza operations director of UNRWA – the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – and he’s been talking to my colleague Tim Franks.”

Schmale: “Overnight another 7 cases were announced, bringing the total to nine.”

Franks: “Right and do you know where these infections originated from?”

Schmale: “The official line from the Ministry of Health is that the original two cases came from outside. They were two Palestinians who’d been in Pakistan and then were put into quarantine. And the latest seven announced last night are guards, security people at this quarantine. So, you know, it’s a bit a border line because they didn’t travel but they contracted it from there other two inside the quarantine area.”

Franks: “Right and I guess that’s particularly concerning is once you get into local transmission.”

Schmale: “I’ve been saying now for several days we need to treat this as if it is a full outbreak. You know, we don’t have the luxury to speculate. And so as UN we are working as if there is a full outbreak locally.”

Listeners were not told that UNRWA had suspended food distribution two days earlier.

Franks: “Well you say you need to treat it as if it’s a full outbreak; Gaza has particular challenges, to put it euphemistically. How difficult is it to try and contain this virus for you?”

Schmale: “The biggest challenge really is that it is so overcrowded and that standards of living – particularly in the refugee camps; 1.4 million people in Gaza of the 2 million living here are refugees, many of whom live in overcrowded camps, so it’s very common to have six, eight or even ten people living in a room or two. And so to do social distancing in those kinds of circumstances – or isolation when once that becomes necessary – is almost impossible to imagine. So that’s one big challenge.”

Of course Tim Franks did not ask Matthias Schmale to explain to listeners why there are still refugee camps in the Gaza Strip nearly fifteen years after Israel’s disengagement from the territory and he refrained from providing BBC audiences with the highly relevant context of UNRWA’s deliberate perpetuation of hereditary refugee status for millions of people living under Palestinian control.  

Schmale: “The other big challenge is that the hospitalisation sector is completely in meltdown. Now what I’ve been told is we have at maximum 60 ICU beds. Out of every hundred people who get ill, five at least on average would need ICU so you can do the math. As soon as more than 1,500 people are ill, they won’t be able to cope. So we are really worried about that, not to mention then the many mild and medium cases that we would have that would have no place to go to.”

Franks did not ask Schmale for the source of that claim that 5% of Covid 19 patients would need ICU treatment. This model, for example, estimates that 2% of patients would need ICU treatment and 1% would require a ventilator. Neither did he bother to enquire how the fact that the Gaza Strip has a relatively young population (the median age is around 18 years) in comparison with many countries would affect the demands placed on the healthcare system.

Franks: “The next question inevitably is what can be done about it?”

Schmale: “We’ve been working for days now as UN including UNRWA – the organisation I work for looking after Palestine refugees – at high speed and try and contain it, you know, and that’s about public health messaging, as difficult as it is to try and respect the guidance from the World Health Organisation about personal hygiene, about social distance at least one or two meters apart. That needs to hold and we’re trying to do that. We are trying to work with the authorities to actually impose a curfew. We think that’s now essential, you know. We don’t – as some colleagues have expressed – want to end up like places like Italy where maybe some those decision were taken too late. And so what we’re trying to do is hope for the best that there won’t be lots of people getting ill but preparing for the worst. And there will be clear limitations as to what we can do if there indeed is a full-scale outbreak in terms of many people getting sick.”

Menendez: “Matthias Schmale, the Gaza operations director of UNRWA – that’s the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – talking about the situation there.”

As we see the BBC continues to promote long-standing talking points concerning the Gaza Strip in its coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic. Notably though, audiences have yet to hear about Hamas’ prioritisation of terror over public services for more than a decade, the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility for the shortage of medicines and equipment in hospitals in the Gaza Strip or the part played by Israel in delivering testing kits and medical supplies to the territory.  

Those omissions suggest that BBC journalists are less interested in informing audiences of the realities of the situation than they are in promoting a long since adopted narrative.

Related Articles:

BBC re-promotes the usual Gaza narratives in multiple Coronavirus reports

Mapping BBC messaging on Gaza and Corona

BBC Radio 4 spreads inaccurate Gaza healthcare canard

BBC ignores PA double standards on Coronavirus related mosque closures

With BBC Jerusalem bureau coverage of the Coronavirus story having focused mainly on Bethlehem and the Gaza Strip, audiences have heard much less about the measures being taken by Israeli authorities to combat the pandemic, including at religious sites in Jerusalem.

On March 15th the director of al Aqsa Mosque announced that it would be closed in light of the Covid 19 outbreak but that prayers would continue to be held outside.

Five days later clashes erupted in Jerusalem as police sought to limit the number of people arriving for Friday prayers in accordance with Ministry of Health directives and the chairman of the Waqf was subsequently fined for allowing worshippers to gather in breach of those guidelines.

On March 22nd the Waqf decided to close the compound to all but Waqf employees.

“The administration of the Wakf Islamic religious trust announced on Sunday that it has decided to suspend prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem as of Monday morning to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The unprecedented decision came in accordance with recommendations by religious and health parties, the Jordanian-controlled Wakf said after holding an emergency meeting in Jerusalem.

The decision means that worshipers would not be permitted to enter the compound starting Monday. […]

In the past few weeks, hundreds of Muslims have been converging on the compound for prayers, ignoring warnings by the Israeli Health Ministry and other health institutions in Jerusalem.”

The Palestinian Authority had already closed mosques and other religious institutions in areas under its control on March 14th. Nevertheless, the PA’s official daily newspaper published an article on March 22nd criticising Israel for that decision taken by the Waqf.

“The lead article adorning Al-Hayat Al-Jadida’s front page detailed the Islamic Wakf Council’s criticism of Israel for fining the council’s chairman Abdul Azim Salhab NIS 5,000 for not closing the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount on Friday. According to the article, Salhab claimed that Israel was simply taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak, exploiting it as a means to harm Muslims by closing the mosque.”

The same edition of the paper also criticised Hamas for not closing mosques in the Gaza Strip.

Readers may recall that Salhab – who has a long record of promotion of incitement using baseless rumours about ‘threats’ to al Aqsa Mosque – was interviewed by the BBC in 2017.  

Related Articles:

BBC WS passes up the chance to tell listeners about PA incitement

The limits of BBC News reporting from PA controlled territories

On March 11th listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard another report (from 37:50 here) from Anna Foster in Bethlehem about the discovery of Coronavirus in that town.

Tim Franks: “Around the world in places affected by the Coronavirus people aren’t just frightened of infection; they are scared of the long-term economic impact. This week Israel – with more than 70 cases of the virus – has taken stringent measures, ordering all new Israeli and foreign arrivals to the country to go into home quarantine which effectively halts tourism. Last week Bethlehem – just south of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank – was put into near lock-down by the Israeli and Palestinian authorities after the first cases of Coronavirus were found at a hotel. The BBC’s Anna Foster has been talking to some residents in Bethlehem.”

The same item appeared in the BBC World Service ‘Global News Podcast’ (from 08:13 here) on that day.

Listeners would learn little more from Foster’s conversations with a student, market vendors, a hotel manager and a mother of two and her closing observation that “a whole community is suffering” could of course have been made in many other locations around the world. As in Foster’s previous report on the topic, listeners heard nothing about Israel’s efforts to help the Palestinian Authority deal with the outbreak of Coronavirus. 

Given the BBC’s long record of highly limited interest in reporting internal Palestinian affairs, it was not surprising to see that Foster showed no interest in reporting a story that began with televised remarks made by the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas concerning a recent doctors’ strike.

“Some trade unions, like the doctors’ union, have declared a strike. […] Why? They want a raise. What raise? They want to double their salaries. I can’t pay their original salaries, so how do they expect me to pay for a raise? Nevertheless, I told them that if we overcome our financial crisis, and if our money stops being confiscated [by Israel] and things get better, we can talk about it. I met the people at the doctors’ union, and their secretary-general. They had made me promises that they later recanted and declared a strike. Why a strike? Is it reasonable for the doctors’ union to strike today when we are being confronted by the coronavirus? Even if there were no other [problems], once the coronavirus appeared, they should have dropped everything and went to work. The measures taken by the doctors are irresponsible. To declare a strike at a time like this, when we have the Deal of the Century on the one hand, and the economic and financial siege on the other hand, and on top of that, we have the coronavirus…”

As reported by Khaled Abu Toameh, criticism of Abbas’ remarks on Facebook prompted the arrest of a member of Fatah.

“A senior Fatah official who called into question the mental health of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been arrested by the Palestinian security forces.

Hussam Khader, 59, an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), was arrested by PA security forces at this home in Balata refugee camp in Nablus on Friday.

Khader, an outspoken critic of the PA leadership, was arrested by the PA’s Protective Security Service after he posted a comment on Facebook criticizing the 84-year-old Abbas’s handling of a recent strike by Palestinian physicians who are demanding a salary increase. […]

Khader’s daughter, Ameera, said several Palestinian security officers raided the family’s home around midnight and told her father they have a court order to search the house. […]

Ameera said the search warrant presented by the officers stated that her father was accused of “incitement against the Palestinian Authority.””

Khader was apparently released five days later.

It is difficult to imagine that the arrest of an MP for criticising remarks made by the president or prime minister of a Western country would not have been reported by the BBC but as we see time and time again, it is rare for BBC audiences to be provided with stand-alone reporting on internal Palestinian affairs if the topic cannot be framed within the context of ‘the conflict’ and does not have an Israel-related component. 

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 airs superficial report on Israel’s Coronavirus measures

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of Palestinian affairs in 2019

 

BBC News erases relevant background from report on Palestinian riot

On March 11th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Palestinian teenager killed in West Bank clash”. BBC audiences were told that:

“A Palestinian teenager has reportedly been shot dead by Israeli forces during a clash in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian medics said Mohammed Hamayel, 15, was hit in the face by live ammunition near the village of Beita, south of the city of Nablus.

Israel’s military said 500 Palestinians took part in what it called a violent riot, hurling rocks towards its troops and setting tyres on fire.”

Apparently the BBC is not convinced that 500 people throwing rocks and petrol bombs is a violent riot and so found it necessary to qualify that description. No such qualification was seen however concerning the claim of the use of “live ammunition”. AP reported that witnesses stated that the IDF had used rubber coated bullets and in response to an enquiry from CAMERA, IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus confirmed that the army used only rubber bullets.

The BBC’s account of the background to the story is based entirely on Palestinian sources:

“The area has been the scene of growing tension in recent weeks.

Palestinians say a group of Jewish settlers has been trying to take control of a hill in the middle of several of their villages.

A witness told the BBC that Palestinians had gathered on Wednesday following rumours the settlers were heading to the hill.

When Israeli forces arrived Palestinians threw stones at them, and the soldiers fired live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas from drones, the witness said.

Palestinian health officials said a further 17 people were injured.

The settlers had reportedly been organising an archaeological tour of the hill, saying it hosted a site of Biblical significance.”

The actual background to the story was reported by Kan 11’s Gal Berger a week before the BBC’s report on the March 11th incident was published.

The hill is called Tel Aroma and it is located between the Palestinian village of Beita and the Israeli community of Itamar, south of Nablus/Schem. It is situated in Area B (i.e. the Palestinian Authority has civil control and Israel controls security) and is the site of a fortress dating from Hasmonean times (1st century BCE).

In late February a tour to the site was planned by a group of Israeli families. Palestinians – organised by the Nablus branch of Fatah – had previously erected a flagpole at the site and the night before the planned trip hundreds gathered on the hilltop in order to prevent it from taking place. The Palestinians rioted throughout the day and the trip was cancelled. Similar disturbances have continued since then and those acts of violence were praised by the PA president Mahmoud Abbas at a televised Fatah meeting on March 1st.

“What I saw in Nablus was great. This was the right thing to do. They need to understand that we are fighting with our eyes, our hands, our legs, and with everything, and that we will not allow them to toy with us. We are teaching them lessons. When they see unarmed people, people who have no weapons… Women and children chase [the Israelis] who run away from them… It makes me happy to see this. Really. This is our way to accomplish what we want. This is our way to accomplish what we want. By means of peaceful resistance, and with these efforts… The sisters should be in front at the protests. This is the most important thing. Seeing the girls beating up a policeman or a soldier really fills my heart with joy. This is how we want our peaceful popular resistance to be. This is our way to vanquish our enemies, and to achieve our independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

Abbas’ blatant incitement and the fact that the rioting at Tel Aroma is organised by the Nablus branch of Fatah naturally did not make it into the BBC’s report. Unverified allegations from PA officials concerning “settlers…trying to take control” of the hill of course did.

Predictably, the final part of the BBC’s report included amplification of the BBC’s standard partial mantra on ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ along with exclusive promotion of the Palestinian narrative.

“About 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. The settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, though Israel has always disputed this.

Palestinians have long called for the removal of the settlements, arguing that their presence on land they claim for a future independent Palestinian state makes it almost impossible to make such a state a reality.”

As we see, the account provided by the BBC relies on and dovetails with the narrative promoted by PA and Fatah officials. So much for the corporation’s obligation to provide “accurate and impartial news”.

BBC Radio 4 airs superficial report on Israel’s Coronavirus measures

The March 6th edition of the BBC radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included a report (from 16:48 here) which suggests that following the discovery of seven Coronavirus cases in Bethlehem on March 5th and the subsequent introduction of measures by the Palestinian Authority which included the closure of the Church of the Nativity, the BBC decided to send a reporter to that town.

Presenter Shaun Ley introduced the item. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Ley: “Now, as governments try to contain the spread of Coronavirus, some of the strictest quarantine measures anywhere in the world are in place in Israel, where 21 cases gave been reported. So far, it’s closed its borders to more than ten countries, and ordered travellers recently arrived from places like France Germany and Spain to self-isolate for fourteen days. Yesterday the first cases were confirmed in the West Bank in the town of Bethlehem. Within hours the main checkpoint from there into Israel had been shut down. The prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he’s unafraid to take harsh measures to try to contain the virus. But how stringently are they being followed and is there a wider economic impact to consider? Our Middle East correspondent Anna Foster begins her report in Bethlehem.”

Anna Foster commenced with the debatable claim that the Church of the Nativity is “the world’s oldest church” and by promoting the notion that Bethlehem – which has been under exclusive PA control for nearly a quarter of a century – is “occupied”.

Foster: “The sight of the ancient wooden door being firmly locked made headlines. The world’s oldest church where Christians believe Jesus was born, forced to close its doors as Coronavirus reached the occupied territories. I watched as the final visitors scrambled to touch the metal star that marks the spot. Hand after hand rubbing it without any soap and water in sight.”

Foster spoke to some German tourists who did not seem to be paying particular attention to instructions concerning self-isolation before going on:

Foster: “In Israel tens of thousands of locals and tourists are now in self-quarantine. But if you’re on holiday and not following the Hebrew media, how do you find out if you’re affected and what you should be doing?”

Listeners were not told that there are numerous non-Hebrew media outlets in Israel reporting daily on that topic or that both the Ministry of Health and the ambulance service provide information and help lines in English and other languages. Instead, Foster asked a worker at a hotel in Jerusalem:

Foster: “Should you be trying to tell them more though, because the government would want you to pass that information on for them, wouldn’t they?”

Moving on to the Old City in Jerusalem, Foster noted the reduction in the number of tourists.

Foster: “Israel is proud of its proactive approach to containing Coronavirus but shop owners like Mohammed can already see the impact of keeping tourists away.”

When her interviewee complained that business was already in decline because of “the situations between the Israel and the Palestinians” Foster did not explain to listeners the effects of Palestinian terrorism and violence on the tourism industry.

As we see, listeners to this superficial report did not in fact find out why the Israeli government has implemented “some of the strictest quarantine measures anywhere in the world” or what steps are being taken to help sectors impacted by the situation.

Neither did they hear anything of the co-operation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which has included the evacuation of tourists from PA controlled areas and the supply of testing kits and training.

“COGAT has been working in the past two weeks to assist the Palestinian Authority in curbing and preventing a coronavirus outbreak in Judea and Samaria and in the Gaza Strip.  Under the stewardship of Civil Administration Health Coordinator Dalia Basa, 250 coronavirus test kits have been transferred from Israel to the PA. Furthermore, joint training sessions for Israeli and Palestinian medical personnel were organized for the professional study of the virus, the protection of medical personnel, and the testing of patients suspected of being virus carriers.

In addition, COGAT has made available to the Palestinian public through its digital platform – the unit’s website and Arabic language social media pages (Al-Munassiq) – the Israeli health ministry guidelines on prevention and protection from the virus spread and ways to deal with contagion and outbreak.  The information published in Arabic is available to the entire Palestinian public in Judea and Samaria and in the Gaza Strip.”

That information would of course have been far more useful to BBC audiences trying to understand how Israel is handling the situation than interviews with a couple of random tourist industry workers in Jerusalem.  

Weekend long read

1) The Times of Israel’s Raphael Ahren explains ‘Why the Palestinian case at The Hague took a big hit this past week’.

“The notion that “Palestine” is a full-fledged state that can grant jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court was dealt a serious blow over the past week, as seven countries and many scholars of international law argued that the issue was not as simple as the Palestinians and their supporters would like to make it seem.

Even some countries that have formally recognized the “State of Palestine” along the pre-1967 lines argued that Palestine cannot necessarily be considered to have validly granted the ICC jurisdiction to probe war crimes allegedly committed on its territory.

Germany, Australia, Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Uganda last week submitted written documents to The Hague, each asking to become an amicus curiae — a “friend of the court” that is not a party to the case but wants to offer its views. They all posited that Palestine cannot transfer criminal jurisdiction over its territory to The Hague.”

2) At the BESA Center Dr. Raphael G. Bouchnik-Chen discusses ‘The Triangle Area in the “Deal of the Century”’.

“As soon as the armistice agreement with Egypt was signed on January 12, 1949, arrangements were made to start negotiations between Israel and Transjordan. The process was to be simple: each country was to send a delegation to Rhodes, where the negotiations were to take place under the guidance of Ralph Bunche. On March 1, while the Foreign Ministry and the IDF were in the process of negotiation, Lieut. Col. Moshe Dayan and Reuven Shiloah, one of FM Moshe Sharett’s most experienced and closest advisers, were sent to Rhodes.

A few days after the start of negotiations with Transjordan, Israeli PM David Ben-Gurion received a personal message from King Abdullah saying he wished to negotiate the terms of the armistice with Israel in secret and in person. He hinted that he could not fully trust his delegation at Rhodes to negotiate as he wanted them to.”

3) Also at the BESA Center, Dr Edy Cohen provides ‘A Short History of Palestinian Rejectionism’.

“Taking into account all the peace initiatives proposed to end the conflict between the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs over the last 83 years, we must consider the possibility that the Palestinians—or at least their leaders—do not want to establish their own state.

Their sight is currently set on the big prize—the entire state of Israel—and they are playing for time. In the meantime, they plan to continue to subsist on monies donated by the Arabs and the Europeans. Many of the Arab states have grown disenchanted with this enterprise, and their assistance, particularly from the Saudis, has been discontinued in recent years.”

4) At the ITIC Dr Raz Zimmt gives his analysis of possible consequences of the killing of Qasem Soleimani.

“The killing of the Commander of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Qasem Soleimani, in early 2020, dealt a serious blow to Iran’s ability to promote its strategic goals in the Middle East. The determination, operational capacities, military and political skills and proximity to the Supreme Leader of Iran made Soleimani into a “puppet master” and a central actor overseeing Iran’s expansionism and subversion in the region. It is doubtful that his replacement, Esmail Qa’ani, will be able to fill his shoes.

However, Soleimani’s death raises the question not only whether Iran can find a proper replacement for him, but whether such a replacement is needed at the current stage. Undoubtedly, over the past decade, Soleimani was “the right man at the right time,” against the backdrop of regional upheavals that swept the Middle East in 2011. Soleimani wisely exploited the weakness of the regional system and used his skills to expand Iranian influence and promote Iran’s goals in the region. But the blow to ISIS and the nearing end of the Syrian civil war, necessitate Iran to re-examine its policies, particularly in light of the external and internal challenges it has been facing in recent years.”

 

BBC News ignores events that challenge its chosen ‘peace process’ narrative

As we recently observed, the BBC’s coverage of the launch of the US Administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposals once again provided no shortage of examples of the corporation’s one-dimensional portrayal of supposed Palestinian aspirations.

Does BBCsplaining of Palestinian aspirations stand up to scrutiny?

While BBC audiences are no doubt able to recite by heart the narrative according to which “the Palestinians want an independent state of their own, comprising the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem”, they do not see any serious reporting on the topic of Palestinians who are opposed to the two-state solution.

This past week two stories emerged which did not – and will not – receive any BBC coverage because they contradict the chosen editorial line. The first of those stories concerns a meeting held in Tel Aviv.

“Palestinian factions have condemned the participation of Palestinian figures in a meeting organized by The Israeli Peace Parliament, a public unaffiliated forum whose members are former representatives of a variety of political parties and movements, including former ministers and members of the Knesset.

Friday’s meeting in Tel Aviv was held under the banner “Yes to Peace,” “No to Annexation” and “Two States for Two People.”

Twenty Palestinians participated in the meeting. Among them: former Palestinian Authority economy minister Bassem Khoury; former PA health ministers Fathi Abu Mughlieh and Sameeh al-Abed; former PA local governance minister Hussein al-A’raj; and former PA prisoners affairs minister Ashraf al-Ajrami. […]

Denouncing the gathering, Hamas said it was a “blow to all Palestinian positions rejecting US President Donald Trump’s recently unveiled plan for Mideast peace.”

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the meeting was also a form of “normalization” with Israel that is rejected by all Palestinians. “These meetings encourage some parties in the region to normalize their relations with the Zionist entity,” Qassem said. “They also weaken the movement of solidarity with our Palestinian people.” […]

Palestinian Islamic Jihad official Ahmed al-Mudalal strongly condemned the meeting in Tel Aviv. “How can we convince the world to reject normalization [with Israel] when some of us are promoting it and involved in it?” he asked. “These meetings are intended to support Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century.’”

The PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) denounced the meeting as a “stabbing of the Palestinian people.””

The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh also reported that: 

“Anti-Israel groups, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, have also joined the “anti-normalization” drive.
After Friday’s meeting in Tel Aviv, several Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, accused the Palestinian participants of engaging in normalization with Israel. Palestinian Facebook users published “black lists” of some of the participants and accused them of betraying the Palestinian people and cause by talking to Israelis.
A woman who attended the Israeli Peace Parliament gathering in Tel Aviv told the Post she has since received scores of hate messages from Palestinians who hurled abuse at her and called her a traitor. […]

The smear campaign on social-media platforms forced one of the Palestinian participants, Hamdallah Al-Hamdallah, mayor of the West Bank town of Anabta, to announce his resignation on his Facebook page. […]

On Monday, Bir Zeit University published a statement distancing itself from Bassem Khoury, a member of the university’s board of trustees who participated in the Tel Aviv meeting. The statement came after students protested against his participation in the “normalization meeting” with Israelis.
“The university affirms its clear policy of rejecting any form of normalization with the occupation,” the statement said.”

Opposition to ‘normalisation’ has of course long been a tenet of the anti-Israel BDS campaign but the BBC’s enduring record of superficial reporting on that campaign has avoided that topic.

The second story concerns the Palestinian Authority’s invitation of a group of Israeli journalists to briefings in Ramallah on February 16th.

“The attacks on Palestinian “normalizers” escalated on Sunday after Palestinians learned that Israeli journalists had been invited to Ramallah for meetings with PA officials.
Many Palestinians posted on social media a video of some of the journalists near Nelson Mandela Square in Ramallah. The Palestinians claimed the Israeli journalists were “Jewish settlers who had invaded Ramallah.”
As photos of the meetings between the journalists and the PA officials surfaced, dozens of Palestinians launched an online campaign denouncing normalization with Israel as “criminal and treachery.” […]

On Monday morning, unknown assailants hurled Molotov cocktails at a restaurant where senior PA official Mahmoud al-Habbash met with Israeli journalists on Sunday. Nobody was hurt and no damage was reported. The attack, however, served as yet another warning to Madani and other Palestinians engaged in all forms of dialogue with Israelis.”

As one of the participating Israeli journalists noted, the meeting was also condemned by senior PLO members Saeb Erekat and Hanan Ashrawi.

The fact that BBC audiences have heard nothing of these two stories comes as no surprise. The editorial policy which underlies the BBC’s frequent and ample coverage of ‘the peace process’ allows no room for the reporting of events which challenge its chosen narrative concerning Palestinian aspirations and its misleading portrayal of one unified and representative Palestinian voice that aspires to peace by means of a two-state solution. That means that the BBC is deliberately avoiding its obligation to provide audiences with information which would enhance their ability to understand and engage with the issue.  

BBC News report on UNHRC blacklist conceals more than it reveals

On the evening of February 12th the BBC News website published a report headlined “UN lists 112 businesses linked to Israeli settlements” which, for reasons unknown, it chose to tag “Trump peace plan”.

The main image illustrating the report appears to show an Arab neighbourhood in Jerusalem near the anti-terrorist fence but is captioned “The settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this”.

That partial but standard BBC mantra is of course repeated in the body of the article.

“About 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. The settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, though Israel has always disputed this.”

The report promotes a version of a partisan map produced by the political NGOB’tselem’ which has appeared in countless previous BBC News website reports. The map marks the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City as a “settlement” and fails to inform audiences that what are described as areas under “Palestinian civil control” and areas under “Israeli military and civil control” are in fact Areas A and B and Area C as designated under the Oslo Accords, to which the PLO was party.

Readers are told that:

“The UN human rights office has issued a long-awaited report on companies linked to Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The report names 112 business entities the office says it has reasonable grounds to conclude have been involved in activities related to settlements.

They include Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia Group and Motorola Solutions.”

The BBC does not clarify that the UNHRC’s blacklist also includes the Rami Levy supermarket chain (which is known as a model of co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians) and numerous companies providing services such as transport, water and telecommunications to both Israelis and Palestinians.  

Later on readers are told that:

“In 2016, the UN Human Rights Council mandated the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to produce a database of companies involved in specific activities relating to settlements. […]

Following what it said was a thorough review and assessment of all information available, the OHCHR presented a report on Wednesday identifying 112 business entities that it said, there were reasonable grounds to conclude, had been involved in one or more of those activities.”

BBC audiences are not informed that members of the UNHRC at the time that the resolution (3136) requesting the compilation of that database was passed included human rights ‘beacons’ such as China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Cuba, Qatar and Venezuela. Neither were they given any background information concerning the UNHRC’s infamous and long-standing bias against Israel.

The BBC’s report avoids all mention of the BDS supporting NGOs involved in the compilation of the blacklist. NGO Monitor notes that:

“The list was based on input from BDS groups, including Human Rights Watch. Many of the groups centrally involved receive significant funding from the EU and European governments. […]

Given that 85 of the 112 companies included on the blacklist are also found in the BDS NGO Who Profits’ database, and based on documentation seen by NGO Monitor,  it is clear that the UN relied on this and other BDS actors as its sources of information.”

In light of that serious omission, the BBC’s decision to include part of a quote from Human Rights Watch in its report is particularly notable.

“Human Rights Watch said the list “should put all companies on notice: to do business with illegal settlements is to aid in the commission of war crimes.””

Although the BBC’s report claims that “There were no immediate comments from the companies named on the list”, one such comment is available here.

The BBC report amplifies comments made by a PA official:

“The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Maliki, said: “The publication of the list of companies and parties operating in settlements is a victory for international law.”

He also called on the Human Rights Council member states to “issue recommendations and instructions to these companies to end their work immediately with the settlements”.”

However at no point in the article did the BBC bother to inform readers in its own words that there is no prohibition in international law from doing business in occupied or disputed territories.

Neither does the report make any effort to inform audiences of the fact that the UNHRC has taken no such action against companies operating in other occupied or disputed territories anywhere else in the world.  

Given the BBC’s dismal record on informing audiences on the topic of UNHRC bias against Israel, its long-existing editorial policy of promoting a specific politically motivated narrative concerning ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ and its promotion of the BDS campaign agenda, the serious omissions in this report come as no surprise whatsoever.

Related Articles:

BBC continues to obstruct audience understanding of UN bias

Disproportionate focus in BBC News report on UNHRC speech

BBC portrayal of US decision to leave UNHRC – part one

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

Last week we looked at the impartiality of BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio coverage of the US Administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan.

A review of the impartiality of BBC radio coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

But did visitors to the BBC News website fare any better?

Below is a summary of the relevant content published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page between January 27th and January 30th – eleven items in all.

Many of the reports promote talking points also evident (including before anyone at the BBC had actually read the proposal) in BBC radio and television coverage:

  • Description of the proposal as a “surrender document” for the Palestinians which does not meet their demands.
  • Presentation of the document as fully meeting Israeli demands.
  • Presentation of the timing of the launch of the document as being related to political and legal processes in the US and Israel.
  • Amplification of the talking points of the PLO and political NGOs, including the ‘apartheid’ trope.
  • Portrayal of the Palestinians as having no agency and predictions of ‘inevitable’ violence.

January 27th:

Trump’s Middle East peace plan: ‘Deal of the century’ is huge gamble by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. Although now dated January 29th, the article was originally published on January 27th – the day before the US proposal was launched – as part of the BBC’s cross-platform preemptive framing of the story.

“…the Trump plan gives Mr Netanyahu all he wants – and offers Palestinians very little; a sort-of state that will be truncated, without proper sovereignty, surrounded by Israel’s territory and threaded between Jewish settlements.”

“Israel argues the Palestinians turned down a series of good offers. The Palestinian negotiators say they made huge concessions, not least accepting Israel’s existence in around 78% of their historic homeland.”

“The timing of the announcement of the Trump initiative suits the political and legal needs of Mr Trump and Mr Netanyahu. Both men face elections. As well as that, Mr Trump gets a distraction from his impeachment, and from his trial in the US Senate for high crimes and misdemeanours. Mr Netanyahu faces criminal charges of corruption, bribery and breach of trust.”

“Essentially the Palestinians have been told to take it or leave it. They are being given a surrender document, told to accept that Israel has won, and with its American friends will shape the future. If Palestinians refuse, the message continues, Israel will still get what it wants and they will be even worse off.”

“There is a chance Palestinians will be afflicted by more anger, despair and hopelessness. In a combustible part of the world, that is dangerous. The Trump plan is a gamble.”

January 28th:

Netanyahu: Trump Middle East peace plan ‘deal of the century’  (video without commentary)

Trump outlines Middle East peace plan  (video without commentary)

Abbas on Trump peace plan: ‘Conspiracy deal won’t pass’  (video without commentary)

Trump releases long-awaited Middle-East peace plan  with analysis from Jonathan Marcus and a link to the website of a political NGO which engages in ‘lawfare’ against Israel.

“…his [Trump’s] “take it or leave it offer” will appal many long-standing students of the region. The question now is not so much what benefit this deal might bring but how much damage it may do by over-turning Palestinian aspirations.”

“Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said the proposals envisaged a form of apartheid.

It said Palestinians would be relegated “to small, enclosed, isolated enclaves, with no control over their lives”.

Israel’s Peace Now organisation said the plan was “as detached from reality as it is eye-catching”.

“The plan’s green light for Israel to annex the settlements in exchange for a perforated Palestinian state is unviable and would not bring stability,” it said.”

Trump’s Middle East peace plan: Smiles and sorrow on the ground Tom Bateman discussed

“The Trump document says applying Israeli sovereignty to the settlements would be compensated by land swaps to Palestinians. It would also recognise Israeli sovereignty over the strategically important Jordan Valley, a key swathe of land in the West Bank important for agriculture running along the border with neighbouring Jordan. […]

But Palestinians say the move will entrench apartheid.”

January 29th:

What does Trump’s Middle East plan say on key issues? Backgrounder

“The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) said the US plan “recognises Israel’s illegal colonisation and annexation of occupied lands belonging to the State of Palestine”, while Israeli human rights group B’Tselem warned that Palestinians would be “relegated to small, enclosed, isolated enclaves, with no control over their lives”.”

Trump Middle East plan: What he gets out of it  Aleem Maqbool

“Israeli opposition figures have not shied away from suggesting that the timing of the proposal’s release was aimed at helping Benjamin Netanyahu in a general election to be held on 2 March.”

“The impeachment allegations [against Trump] suggest sordid and dishonourable use of his powerful position for personal political gain; withholding hundreds of millions of dollars of military assistance to Ukraine until Kiev opened investigations into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Mr Trump might hope the unveiling of his proposal would offer Americans a contrasting narrative of his skills as a statesman, delivering “the deal of the century”.”

“There are also Evangelicals within the Trump administration itself, like Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have reportedly been pushing for the kind of support for Israel’s expansionist aspirations as detailed in the new plan.

Those aspirations all but do away with the notion of having sovereign Palestinian and Israeli states existing side by side, as previous US administrations had said they wanted.

Evangelical Christians were huge financial backers of the Trump campaign in 2016, but there were others who would have wanted to see some return on the support they gave during the last election reflected in this proposal.

Aipac, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, has already endorsed Mr Trump’s Middle East plan, saying it appreciated the efforts of the president.”

“Whether the plan and the timing of its release is about backing Mr Netanyahu, distracting from impeachment troubles, playing domestic politics or if it is indeed driven by ideology, it comes with huge risks.

It can be seen as a proposal that gives Israel the authorisation to broaden its occupation, already a source of misery for so many. The fear is that a proposal that gives Palestinians so little hope is one that also strengthens hard-liners across the region.”

Why Trump’s Middle East plan is so divisive  Jeremy Bowen (video with commentary)

“The BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen explains why the proposal is so divisive.”

Trump Middle East plan: Palestinians reject ‘conspiracy’

“Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Trump administration had simply “copied and pasted” the steps that Mr Netanyahu wanted to see implemented.

“It’s about annexation, it’s about apartheid,” he said. “Moving to the de jure annexation of settlements is something that was given the green light yesterday.””

January 30th:

Palestinian PM defends stance on Trump Middle East plan Orla Guerin interview with Mohammad Shtayyeh (video)

As we see the BBC elected to interview the Palestinian Authority prime minister but not any senior Israeli official. The BBC chose to showcase political NGOs and a PLO official promoting the baseless ‘apartheid’ trope but did not provide an alternative viewpoint. The reports written by the BBC staff presented a disturbingly uniform negative view of the topic and audiences were not provided with a balanced “range of views”.

The purpose of the editorial guidelines is of course to enable the BBC to meet its public purpose obligations, including the provision of “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of […] the wider world”. It is once again abundantly obvious that BBC journalists were far more intent on establishing a specific narrative than they were committed to providing accurate and impartial news reports offering a “wide range of significant views”. 

Related Articles:

Snark and speculation on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’

BBC’s Tom Bateman misleads on the Oslo Accords

BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ viewers misled on 1949 Armistice lines

The BBC’s Middle East editor’s framing of the US peace plan

Inadequately presented interviewees and an anonymous quote in BBC One Guerin report

BBC Radio 4’s preemptive framing of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

BBC’s ‘Newshour’ serves up ‘rumours and leaks’ with one-sided analysis

BBC Radio 4 news implies previous existence of Palestinian state in US plan report

BBC radio interviews same PA representative three times in one day

BBC WS radio promotes US peace plan commentary from partisan lobbying group

A review of the impartiality of BBC radio coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

 

BBC Complaints invokes ‘common parlance in the media’

As documented previously, on January 28th listeners to BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio repeatedly heard Husam Zomlot described as “the Palestinian ambassador to the UK” and “the Palestinian ambassador to London”.

BBC Radio 4’s preemptive framing of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

BBC’s ‘Newshour’ serves up ‘rumours and leaks’ with one-sided analysis

BBC radio interviews same PA representative three times in one day

BBC Watch submitted a complaint pointing out that the BBC had corrected a similar misrepresentation of Mr Zomlot’s title in 2018 and that although the UK does not currently recognise a Palestinian state, by referring to Mr Zomlot as an ambassador the BBC suggests that it does and therefore misleads audiences.

On February 6th we received the following reply:

“Thank you for contacting us regarding the Today programme and Newshour, both broadcast on Tuesday 28th January.

We have spoken with senior staff about your concerns. We acknowledge the point that Husam Zomlot is not strictly speaking an ambassador, although the phrase is in common parlance in the media. We will remind editors of his actual title, but it is clear from our wider reporting that the UK does not recognise Palestine as a state.”

In other words the BBC is obviously not concerned by the fact that members of the public who access any of those three programmes during the time they are still available online will be misled by the misrepresentation of Zomlot’s title because it is “common parlance in the media” – which apparently takes precedence over BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy.