Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2017 – part two

As noted in part one of this post, between April 1st and June 30th 2017, seventy reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, some of which were cross posted from other sections of the website and one of which was carried over from the previous quarter. 7.14% of those reports covered stories relating to security/terrorism.

The remaining 92.86% of those articles can be grouped into a number of categories. (The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which each report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Nine reports (12.86% of the total) related to historical subject matter, including the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War:

The Holocaust: Who are the missing million? Raffi Berg (24/4/17 to 1/5/17)

How the Six Day War brought elation and despair Tom Bateman (4/6/17 to 7/6/17) discussed here

Six Day War Israeli veteran: ‘Occupation risked suffocation’ (4/6/17 to 7/6/17)

Six Day War Israeli veteran: ‘I saw a miracle’ (4/6/17 to 6/6/17)

Six Day War: ‘We were completely defeated’ (4/6/17 to 6/6/17)

1967 war: Six days that changed the Middle East Jeremy Bowen (5/6/17 to 7/6/17) discussed here

Six Day War: What happened – in 60 seconds (5/6/17 to 7/6/17) discussed here

Six Day War: Six ways the conflict still matters Paul Adams (9/6/17 to 12/6/17) discussed here

Uncovering a story of ill-fated romance and tragic death (11/6/17 to 13/6/17)

Four reports can be categorised as miscellaneous:

Israeli comic novel up for International Booker Prize (21/4/17)

Christianity’s most important church? BBC Travel (6/5/17 to 9/5/17)

Why isn’t there more ‘Jewish food’ in Israel? BBC Travel (15/6/17 to 16/6/17) discussed here

Man Booker International Prize: David Grossman wins for stand-up comic novel (15/6/17 to 16/6/17)

21 reports (30%) related to Israeli diplomatic/international relations and/or political aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict with nine of those relating to the visit to Israel by the US president.

Israel approves first new West Bank settlement in 20 years  (31/3/17 to 3/4/17) discussed here

Israel’s Netanyahu scraps talks with German minister over rights groups (25/4/17 to 27/4/17) discussed here

UK should not back US Middle-East policy, say peers (2/5/17)

Trump tells Abbas ‘very good chance’ of Mid-East peace deal (3/5/17 to 4/5/17) discussed here and here

Trump to visit Israel, Vatican and Saudi Arabia in first foreign trip (4/5/17 to 8/5/17)

Archbishop of Canterbury to meet Palestinian and Israeli leaders Yolande Knell (8/5/17 to 9/5/17) discussed here

Time for Middle East peace efforts, says Justin Welby Yolande Knell (10/5/17 to 12/5/17) discussed here

Israel says ties with US unaffected after Trump-Lavrov accusations (17/5/17 to 18/5/17)

Trump tells Israel Iran will never have nuclear weapons (22/5/17)

Trump’s visit to Israel and Palestinians: What are key issues? (22/5/17)

Donald Trump: A rare opportunity to bring peace (22/5/17 to 25/5/17)

Trump visits Western Wall in Jerusalem (22/5/17 to 30/5/17)

So, just what did Trump’s note in the Western Wall say? (22/5/17 to 23/5/17)

Trump ‘to do everything’ for Middle East peace (23/5/17 to 24/5/17)

Trump in Middle East: Symbols but little substance Jeremy Bowen (23/5/17 to 1/6/17) discussed here

Trump: ‘I never mentioned the word Israel’ to the Russians (24/5/17 to 31/5/17)

Wonder Woman banned by Lebanon over Israeli lead Gal Gadot (31/5/17 to 6/6/17) discussed here

Trump delays moving US embassy to Jerusalem (1/6/17 to 6/6/17) discussed here

US warning over its UN Human Rights Council role (6/6/17 to 7/6/17) discussed here

Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim visits West Bank Yolande Knell (13/6/17 to 22/6/17) discussed here

Israel starts work on first new West Bank settlement in 20 years (20/6/17 to 22/6/17) discussed here

Eleven reports (15.7%) related to Palestinian affairs:

Hamas executes three ‘Israel collaborators’ in Gaza (6/4/17 to 10/4/17)

Gaza power cuts: Man shares his tricks (18/4/17 to 20/4/17) discussed here

Palestinian Authority ‘stops paying Israel for Gaza electricity’ (27/4/17 to 1/5/17) discussed here 

New Hamas policy document ‘aims to soften image’ (1/5/17 to 3/5/17) discussed here

How much of a shift is the new Hamas policy document? Yolande Knell (2/5/17 to 8/5/17) discussed here

The ancient path through Palestine BBC Travel (2/5/17 to 3/5/17 and 6/5/17) 

Hamas chooses Ismail Haniya as new leader (6/5/17 to 9/5/17) discussed here

Gaza residents left in the dark amid Palestinian power struggle Yolande Knell (18/5/17 to 21/5/17) discussed here

Gaza Palestinians: Hamas kills three ‘collaborators’ (25/5/17 to 28/5/17)

Qatar Gulf row threatens cash crisis for Gaza Yolande Knell (20/6/17 to 22/6/17) discussed here

Gaza’s only power plant resumes after Egypt fuel delivery (22/6/17 to 24/6/17)

The 20 reports (28.57% of the total) concerning Israeli affairs can be divided into sub categories including:

a) reports relating to legal and/or criminal issues, with the majority (7) relating to a ‘hunger strike’ led by convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons:

Palestinians in Israeli jails hold mass hunger strike  (17/4/17 to 18/4/17) discussed here and here

Palestinians clash with Israeli forces in support of prisoners (17/4/17 to 18/4/17) discussed here

Israel rules out talks with Palestinian hunger striking inmates (18/4/17 to 19/4/17) discussed here

Palestinian anger at Israeli refusal to talk to hunger striking inmates (19/4/17 to 20/4/17) discussed here

US-Israeli man, 18, in court over threats against Jewish centres (24/4/17 to 26/4/17)

Palestinian hunger strike leader Barghouti ‘filmed eating’ (8/5/17 to 10/5/17) discussed here

Arabs call for Pizza Hut boycott after prisoner ad (10/5/17 to 11/5/17) discussed here

Palestinians in Israeli jails end 40-day hunger strike (27/5/17 to 30/5/17) discussed here

Netanyahus win libel case over car row in convoy story (11/6/17 to 14/6/17)

Israeli airline El Al banned from asking women to switch seats (22/6/17 to 24/6/17)

Ehud Olmert, Israel’s jailed ex-PM, to be released early (29/6/17 to 2/7/16) 

b) society:

Israel boy, 14, ‘kept at home since birth’ (11/5/17 to 15/5/17) discussed here

The deafblind actors of Jaffa (21/5/17 to 23/5/17) discussed here

Missing babies: Israel’s Yemenite children affair Yolande Knell (21/6/17 to 22/6/17) discussed here

c) domestic news/politics:

Israeli news presenter gets tearful reporting own show’s cancellation 10/5/17 to 16/5/17 discussed here

Israeli TV channel’s sudden closure shocks staff 10/5/17 to 11/5/17 discussed here

Jewish group cancels Netanyahu dinner over Western Wall decision (26/6/17 to 28/6/17) discussed here

d) science and technology:

Smartphones that charge in five minutes ‘could arrive next year’ BBC Technology (12/5/17 to 15/5/17)

Open Sesame: Science centre unveiled in Jordan BBC Science (16/5/17 to 17/5/17)

Sesame project opens in Jordan BBC Science (16/5/17 to 19/5/17)

As was the case throughout 2016 and in the first quarter of 2017, (see ‘related articles’ below) Israeli domestic affairs once again received greater coverage (28.57%) than did Palestinian affairs (15.7%) in the second quarter of 2017 although the gap in coverage was narrowed in Q2. 

During the first half of 2017 security related reports accounted for 9.9% of the BBC News website’s articles pertaining to Israel and/or the Palestinians. 31.7% of the coverage related to Israeli affairs while internal Palestinian affairs were the topic of just 9.3% of the articles. The subject most frequently covered in BBC reporting continues to be international relations and conflict politics.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2017 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2017 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2017 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q4 2016 – part two (includes links to previous reports) 

 

 

 

 

Why the BBC’s failure to cover faux outrage in Jerusalem matters in the UK

BBC News website coverage of the terror attack in the Old City of Jerusalem on July 14th included reporting on the temporary closure of Temple Mount while police investigations were being completed.

“In the wake of the incident, police sealed off the site to search it for weapons. It is the first time in decades that the compound, which contains the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, has been closed for Muslim Friday prayers, which normally draws thousands of worshippers.

The site is administered by an Islamic authority (Waqf), though Israel is in charge of security there. Police are investigating how the attackers managed to smuggle in a handgun, sub-machine gun and knife.” BBC News website, 14/7/17

BBC radio reports on the same story amplified Palestinian objections to that closure but without adequately explaining why it had been implemented or clarifying the political background to those ‘protests’.

“There have been closures in the past for short periods of time when there have been incidents but for the police to say they’re closing it and that prayers not take place is significant. And in response, as you’ve heard, there has been much criticism from Palestinians. There have been prayers taking place outside the compound itself this afternoon. Obviously there a scene of heightened tension.” BBC World Service radio, 14/7/17

“After the shooting police began a search of the site and sealed it off. Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque are usually attended by thousands of Muslims but the closure prevented that: a highly unusual decision by the Israeli authorities. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the preacher at the mosque, was defiant saying no force on earth could prevent prayers there. Instead though, they took place outside the compound amid signs of growing tension and angry scuffles at another of the Old City’s gates. Adnan Husseini – the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem – criticised the closure.” BBC Radio 4, 14/7/17

The only follow-up to those reports came in an article on a different topic in which visitors to the BBC News website were correctly informed on July 16th that:

“The holy site was closed after shooting but it reopened on Sunday.”

Hence, as far as BBC audiences are aware the story ended there. That, however, is not the case but the BBC has not produced any reporting on events that followed the reopening of Temple Mount two days after the temporary closure.

Audiences have not been told of the false and inflammatory claims made by Waqf officials or statements put out by the OIC and the Arab League.

“The Arab League condemned Israel for the closure, with Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit saying in a statement on Friday that Israel’s “banning Palestinians from praying” will only “inflame extremism and escalate tension” in the region. He stressed “the high sensitivity of issues related to religious places,” and chastised Israel for handling the situation with “carelessness.”

The statement made no mention of the terror attack that caused the temporary closure.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an umbrella group of 57 nations, also lambasted the closure, calling it “a serious crime and a dangerous precedent.””

Neither have they been informed of inflammatory actions in the Jordanian parliament.

“On Saturday, there was an anti-Israel/defend Al-Aqsa march in Amman. On Sunday, the speaker of the Jordanian parliament read out a eulogy for the “martyrs of Palestine and the Jabarin family,” from which the killers hailed. He termed their attack a heroic act. All this, even as King Abdullah and Netanyahu had spoken by phone and agreed to reopen the Mount.”

BBC audiences have not been informed that although Temple Mount was reopened to visitors two days after the terror attack, some Muslims are refusing to pray there, citing the new security measures installed after the terror attack.

“At noon on Sunday, Israel reopened one of the entrances to the Mount to all Muslim residents of Jerusalem, regardless of age or gender. However, metal detectors were installed at the gate, which Israel had set up in the past but later removed, in order to improve security.

Waqf officials, who oversee the religious management of the Temple Mount, refused to enter the site and instigated a protest outside the entrance, with dozens of worshipers conducting their afternoon prayers next to the gate. “We will not accept security checks at Al-Aqsa… Don’t go through the gates,” one official shouted to the crowd outside the gate, who responded with cries of “Allahu Akbar.”

Police said the Waqf officials were not required to pass through the sensors. Channel 2 reported that Waqf officials initially entered the compound by a side entrance, without being required to go through the metal detectors, but later came back out and instigated protests against the new arrangements.”

Inflammatory statements from several parties concerning the new security arrangements (which are similar to those already in existence at the entrance to Temple Mount used by non-Muslims) have also been ignored by the BBC.

“Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy head of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, told Palestinian media on Sunday that posting metal detectors at the Temple Mount was “illegitimate,” and security would only be ensured at the site by preventing the entry of “settlers” and removing “Israeli soldiers” — a reference to Border Police officers stationed at the site — from the compound.”

Even the propaganda of BBC ‘frequent flyer’ Mustafa Barghouti did not receive any BBC coverage.

“”We have been under occupation for 50 years, and we will not ‘get used’ to the new injustice,” Barghouti told The Jerusalem Post. “People will try entering in every possible way without going through the electronic devices,” he added.

Barghouti pointed his finger at the Israeli government as the source to these tensions, saying it just waited to get an excuse to install the metal detectors at the gate.

“These measures were preplanned,” he said. “Nobody is convinced that due to the incident these measures were taken.”

“The measures are completely unacceptable,” Barghouti added.

“There is no place in the world that collective punishment is used against the whole population… We feel that their aim and nature is to change the situation at al-Aksa mosque.””

BBC audiences have also not been informed of the violent incidents that have taken place in recent days or of the incitement from the PA president’s party Fatah.

“Protesters rioted in East Jerusalem neighborhoods overnight Tuesday against new security measures at the Temple Mount, throwing stones and petrol bombs at police and shooting fireworks at Israeli forces. At least 50 Palestinians and one officer were reported hurt.

The disturbances come after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party on Monday called for a “Day of Rage” in protest against new measures, including metal detectors installed following a deadly terror attack at the end of last week. […]

Fatah on Monday called for marches in the West Bank toward Israeli checkpoints in protest of the new measures and announced that Friday prayers, when many worshipers go to the Temple Mount, would be conducted in public squares instead. The decision was made following a meeting between Fatah Revolutionary Council secretary Adnan Ghaith, Fatah central committee member Jamal Muheisin, and Fatah representatives from the northern West Bank.

The group said the measures were called in order to denounce Israeli “terrorist procedures” in the Old City, according to a report in the Palestinian news agency Ma’an.”

For years Palestinian and Muslim figures – including the PA president himself – have been inciting violence by means of made-up ‘threats’ to the Muslim holy sites on Temple Mount. While the BBC’s Middle East correspondent described that site as “one of the most acute flash points in this decades-old conflict” as recently as last Friday, the corporation in fact has a long record of consistently under-reporting incitement and glorification of terrorism from such sources and on occasion has even amplified their conspiracy theories concerning Temple Mount.

The absence of any sober, factual BBC reporting on this latest example of anti-Israel delegitimisation and dangerous incitement dressed up as faux outrage (once again) over the installation of security measures of the kind already found at public places in Israel and around the world is not merely a technical issue of record. On the BBC’s home turf – where it is obliged to “contribute to social cohesion” – there are elements that are already promoting misinformation on this story to sectors of the UK population.

Such misinformation thrives in the vacuum created by the absence of responsible, accurate and impartial reporting by the media organisation with the broadest outreach in the UK.

Related Articles:

More conspiracy theory amplification from BBC’s Yolande Knell – and why it matters

BBC ignores Jordanian cancellation of US brokered Temple Mount plan

The part of the Temple Mount story the BBC refuses to tell 

Landmark Israel-PA agreements not news for the BBC

In the past week two major agreements have been signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, both of which relate to topics the BBC has covered – from certain angles – in the past.

The first deal involves the electricity supply to Palestinian Authority controlled areas.

“High-ranking Palestinian and Israeli officials gathered in a field outside the West Bank city of Jenin on Monday to turn on the first-ever piece of Palestinian-owned electricity infrastructure and ink a new electricity agreement between the two sides.

The deal, hailed as “historic” by signatories, will for the first time set parameters for the supply of power between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which for years has seen the PA default on billions of shekels of debt and Israel subsequently withhold electricity. […]

The station will allow Israel to send up to 135 more megawatts to the northern West Bank area, though the agreement currently calls for just 60 more. The energy will provide a much-needed boost to the Jenin area, which has suffered power outages more than any other Palestinian West Bank region.

The station also represents the first time the Palestinians will be able to control the distribution of the electricity to their own towns and cities.

The PA will still have to buy its power from the Israel Electric Corporation. But apart from that, once the power is handed off to the PA, it’s in Palestinian hands.

When infrastructure breaks down — which once necessitated Israeli teams escorted by the army to perform repairs, which inevitably caused delays — Palestinian teams will be responsible for dealing with any problems.

The station was built by the Israel Electric Corporation, by both Israeli and Palestinian workers, but it is owned by the Palestinian Electric Authority (PEA) and the PA. The IEC also trained Palestinians to work, maintain and fix the site.

[Israeli Energy minister] Steinitz described the deal as a “win-win project” for Israel and the Palestinians.

“It’s good for Palestinians because they will get more electricity, which will be more stable and of higher quality. It’s good for Israel because…the responsibility [for Palestinian electricity] won’t fall on the shoulders of the Israeli Electric Corporation,” he said. […]

Jenin is the first region to receive a substation, but three more are on the way — in the Hebron region in the south, in the Ramallah region in the center and in Nablus in the mid-northern West Bank. With all four stations, the Palestinian Authority will control the power flow across all the territory it controls.”

When the agreement that paved the way for this new substation was signed last September, the BBC ignored that story and there has to date been no reporting of this latest news.

While the topic of Israel’s withholding of tax revenue transfers to the Palestinian Authority has cropped up time and time again in the corporation’s Middle East coverage over the years, the BBC has repeatedly failed to adequately inform audiences of the relevant context of the PA’s massive debt to the Israel Electric Corporation and the reasons why that debt has accumulated.

The second agreement signed last week concerns water and a project that the BBC has covered in the past.

“Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Thursday announced an agreement that will provide millions of cubic meters of drinking water to the Palestinians from a desalination process. […]

The agreement announced Thursday is part of a larger trilateral agreement for the construction of a 220-kilometer (137-mile) pipeline transferring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea — the lowest body of water on earth — to benefit Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians, and replenish the dwindling Dead Sea. As the water runs down the gradient it will be used to generate electricity that will also power a desalination plant to produce drinking water. […]

The water sharing deal reached on Thursday calls for an Aqaba desalination plant in Jordan to sell water to southern Jordan and Eilat, while water from the Sea of Galilee will be sold to northern Israel and Jordan. Israel will sell 32 million cubic meters of water to the Palestinian Authority from Mediterranean desalination plants — 10 million to Gaza and 22 million to the West Bank…”

BBC audiences have seen much politicised coverage of the topic of water in the past. Only last March BBC World Service audiences heard unchallenged promotion of the falsehood that Israelis consume ‘Palestinian’ water.

Nevertheless, the media organisation that pledges to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world” did not find this latest landmark water-related story newsworthy either.

Related Articles:

No BBC coverage of energy sector agreements between Israel and the PA

NYT reports on a topic consistently off the BBC radar

BBC’s “Obstacles to Peace” do not hold water – part 2

 

Weekend long read

1) On July 13th the BBC and CBS News announced a new partnership.

“BBC News and CBS News announced today a new editorial and newsgathering relationship that will significantly enhance the global reporting capabilities of both organisations. The announcement was made by BBC Director of News and Current Affairs James Harding and CBS News President David Rhodes.

This new deal allows both organisations to share video, editorial content, and additional newsgathering resources in New York, London, Washington and around the world. The relationship between BBC News and CBS News will also allow for efficient planning of newsgathering resources to increase the content of each broadcaster’s coverage of world events.

James Harding, BBC Director of News and Current Affairs, says: “There’s never been a more important time for smart, courageous coverage of what’s happening in the world.

“This new partnership between the BBC and CBS News is designed to bring our audiences – wherever you live, whatever your point of view – news that is reliable, original and illuminating. Our ambition is to deliver the best in international reporting on television. We’re really looking forward to working together.” […]

Sharing of content between BBC News and CBS News will begin immediately. Additional newsgathering components will be rolled out in the coming months.”

Information on CBS News reporting is available at CAMERA.

2) MEMRI brings an interesting clip from an interview with a Lebanese politician talking about a topic serially avoided in BBC reporting.

“Today, nobody dares to open his mouth. Thirty ministers in the government, and none of them dares to say to Nasrallah: ‘What gives you the right to say what you say?’ The president keeps his mouth shut. The army commander keeps his mouth shut. The defense and foreign ministers keep their mouths shut. Nobody even mentions U.N. Resolutions 1701 and 1559. Nobody talks about Lebanon’s international obligations. Nobody says that there can be no military force in Lebanon other than the Lebanese army and the U.N. forces.”

3) Another topic that has to date received no BBC coverage is the subject of an article by Avi Issacharoff at the Times of Israel.

“There have been numerous reports in the Arab and Palestinian media recently about meetings being held in Egypt between Abbas’s political rival, Mohammad Dahlan, and the leaders of Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas. These allegedly took place in Cairo under the close supervision of the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, Khaled Fawzy.

Dahlan and Hamas reportedly agreed to establish a new “management committee” of Gaza, which would see the Fatah strongman share control of the Palestinian enclave.

Abbas will likely demand explanations from Sissi as to the nature of these contacts, and Egypt’s support of them.

The PA chief and his allies have been flooded with rumors about a deal being concocted behind the back of the Palestinian Authority, under the auspices of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. These talks are seen by Abbas as insulting, even a spit in the face. Abbas will want to know whether Fawzy’s reported actions were authorized by Sissi.”

4) At the FDD, Tony Badran writes about a development connected to yet another story ignored by the BBC last year.

“Congress passed the first round of Hezbollah sanctions in late 2015. Known as the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act (HIFPA), the bill targeted banks used by the group and its members. After HIFPA became law, there were rumors in the Lebanese press that some jittery banks were closing the accounts of Hezbollah members. One Hezbollah MP did have his bank account closed.

Lebanese institutions then intervened. The Central Bank of Lebanon reversed the decision of the private bank that closed the Hezbollah MP’s account. Meanwhile, according to Arabic media reports, the Ministry of Finance started paying Hezbollah MPs and ministers’ salaries in cash to avoid banks, though the accuracy of these stories is unclear. Eventually, Hezbollah placed a bomb behind a branch of Blom Bank in June 2016, and everyone got the message: be careful about being “overzealous” in complying with U.S. law.

Reports that Congress is working on an updated and tightened HIFPA have caused much consternation in Lebanon, and this time, state institutions are not waiting until after it passes to undermine it. […]

Last month, the Lebanese Parliament passed a new electoral law to govern the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for May of next year. The law includes a little-noticed amendment aimed at preempting future U.S. sanctions.”

5) The Algemeiner brings us a summary of an address by Judea Pearl concerning the morality of the BDS campaign.

“BDS is not a new phenomenon; it is a brainchild of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, who in April 1936 started the Arab Rejectionist movement (under the auspices of the Arab Higher Committee), and the first thing he did was to launch a boycott of Jewish agricultural products and a general strike against Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine from war-bound Europe.

The 1936 manifesto of the rejectionist movement was very similar to what BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti presented here at UCLA on January 15, 2014. It was brutal in its simplicity: Jews are not entitled to any form of self-determination in any part of Palestine, not even the size of a postage stamp — end of discussion!

Here is where BDS earns its distinct immoral character: denying one people rights to a homeland, rights that are granted to all others. This amounts to discrimination based on national identity, which in standard English vocabulary would be labeled “bigotry,” if not “racism.””

 

 

 

BBC ME correspondent: Jewish history in Hebron is a ‘view’

BBC reporting on last week’s UNESCO resolution concerning the old city of Hebron – including the Tomb of the Patriarchs – has consistently failed to adequately clarify to audiences both the real reasons for Israel’s objections to the motion as well as the fact that the professional body assessing the proposal submitted by the Palestinian delegation did not recommend its adoption and criticised it for ignoring Jewish and Christian heritage in the city, “even though extensive remains testify to these links”.

Superficial BBC WS report on PA’s latest UNESCO stunt ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio, 2/7/17

BBC erases the real story in report on UNESCO’s Hebron resolution BBC News website, 7/7/17

The missing word in BBC R4 reporting on UNESCO Hebron resolution ‘The World Tonight’, BBC Radio 4, 7/7/17

An additional report concerning that story was broadcast (from 30:07 here) on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on July 7th. In his introduction to that item, presenter James Coomarasamy once again failed to clarify to listeners in the BBC’s own words that Israel’s objections are actually rooted in UNESCO’s declaration of the old city of Hebron a ‘Palestinian’ site – and the consequent erasure of its Jewish history and heritage – rather than in any objection to conservation per se. 

Coomarasamy: “Israel has denounced a decision by UNESCO to declare the old city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank a protected world heritage site. The resolution passed by a committee of the UN’s cultural agency also put it on a list of sites considered to be in danger. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a delusional decision.”

Listeners next heard a voice-over translation of the Israeli prime minister speaking in Hebrew.

“This time they have determined that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is a Palestinian site – in other words, not Jewish – and that the site is endangered. Not a Jewish site? Who’s buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah: our forefathers and mothers. And that this is in danger? Only where Israel is present like in Hebron is freedom of worship ensured for everybody. Throughout the Middle East mosques, churches and synagogues are being blown up. Places where Israel is not present. So we will continue to guard the Cave of the Patriarchs to ensure religious freedom for everybody and we will continue also to guard the truth.”

Coomarasamy then told listeners that they were about to hear information concerning “the history” behind the story.

“So what is the history behind the Israeli prime minister’s clear annoyance at this decision? Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman is in Jerusalem.”

The history of the Tomb of the Patriarchs is of course well documented, with Abraham’s purchase of the site appearing in the Book of Genesis. While one can of course choose to believe that biblical story or not, what is not disputed is that the site was of such importance to Jews that Herod built a structure over the burial caves that is described by UNESCO’s professional team as having been “built in the 1st century BCE” – i.e. hundreds of years before the Islamic conquest of the region.

However, instead of providing audiences with a factual account of the site’s history, Tom Bateman preferred to give a narrative based portrayal of the story that cites ‘views’ – with views of course by definition being open to question and debate. [emphasis added]

Bateman: “Well he’s upset because Hebron, which is in the occupied West Bank, in his view and in the view of many Israelis has a connection to Judaism that goes back thousands of years. And the Cave of the Patriarchs that he talked about there, whilst the site itself is revered by all three of the monotheistic religions, to Judaism it is the burial-place of Abraham. Ah…and so it is his view that what’s happened here is that the Palestinian delegation has gone to UNESCO and has effectively used it for a politically motivated decision to try and enshrine Palestinian sovereignty over the entire city. Now for the Palestinians the view is rather different. It is that they believe that the site is endangered because of what they see as threats from occupation, from the Jewish settlements that are there in those…right in the centre of the old city and so they have for some time now been pushing for this vote and it went their way at UNESCO in Krakow at the meeting by 12 votes to 3.”

Bateman also refrained from providing audiences with any information concerning the history of the Jewish community in Hebron up to the 20th century or the more recent history – the Hebron Protocol – that would help listeners understand that there are “Jewish settlements …right in the centre of the old city” because the Palestinians agreed to that arrangement twenty years ago. He did however find it important to describe “pretty chaotic scenes” at the UNESCO vote before Coomarasamy made a vague reference to some more history: that of the Palestinian delegation’s repeated exploitation of the UN’s cultural forum for the denial of Jewish history and delegitimisation of Israel.

Coomarasamy: “And Israel’s going to reduce its funding to the UN; as you say there’ve been a number of decisions by the UN that Israel is unhappy about. This is just going to make, I guess, that relationship even worse.”

Bateman: “Yeah that’s right. I mean we’ve heard Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu say repeatedly that parts of the UN, and particularly UNESCO, are biased against Israel; they’re politically motivated, they’re in hock to Israel’s adversaries. And when he said – as we heard in the clip there – that this was delusional yet again by UNESCO after a vote that they felt severed Judaism’s historic ties to Jerusalem itself – to the Western Wall – ah…earlier this year, so he has said after this vote that he’s gonna withdraw another million dollars of funding to the United Nations and instead, he says, he will put that money into a heritage museum in Hebron.”

Like the rest of the BBC’s coverage of this story, Bateman’s equivocal ‘he said-she said’ account and his refusal to even provide historical facts without introducing false equivalence and ‘narratives’ obviously does not meet the corporation’s mission of providing “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

 

 

BBC WS ‘Newsday’ listeners get warped view of Gaza electricity crisis

On July 11th the United Nations released a report titled ‘Gaza Ten Years Later’ and in addition to publishing a press release on the topic, the head of the team that complied that UNSCO report also promoted it via interviews with various media outlets – including the BBC.

The early edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday‘ on July 12th included an interview (from 16:45 here) with Robert Piper – whose full job title is “UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”. A clip from that interview was also promoted separately by the BBC on social media under the title “Life in Gaza reaching its limits” and with a synopsis reading:

“In 2012, the United Nations predicted that the Palestinian territory of Gaza would be “unliveable” [sic] by 2020. But in a new report, the UN has revised its calculations saying that the conditions for an estimated two million people living there are deteriorating “further and faster” than earlier predictions. Robert Piper, the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities spoke to BBC Newsday.”

Presenter Alan Kasujja introduced the item as follows:

Kasujja: “Now let’s talk about Gaza. The living conditions of an estimated 2 million people in the Gaza Strip are deteriorating fast: further and faster than earlier predictions. So claims a new report from the United Nations which says its earlier estimation back in 2012 that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020 is wrong. Rather, Gazans have already reached their limits. And joining us now from Jerusalem is Robert Piper; the UN coordinator for the humanitarian aid and development activities. Thank you for joining us this morning. Can we just first of all start by establishing, Robert, what you mean when you say that it’s unlivable.”

Piper: “…I think essentially the conditions have deteriorated to such a degree across a number of fields that really life is increasingly untenable for Gazans in terms of access to electricity, in terms of access to reliable drinking water, in terms of prospects for jobs. Down each of these avenues, if you will, Gazans are seeing less and less possibilities.”

Kasujja: “Very interested in hearing what life is like on an ordinary day for Gazans. You talk about access to electricity; could you paint a picture for us to illustrate that?”

Piper: “Well the electricity situation in the last few months has got so serious that in the last 10 days it got down to 2 to 3 hours a day for most Gazan households. Let’s remember Gaza is a hugely dense population. It’s not far off Hong Kong in terms of population density so it’s a lot of high-rise buildings; a lot of people living over the 4th, 5th, 6th floor and onwards in high-rise buildings. Because of the electricity crisis, 2 to 3 hours a day means if you’re in this high-rise building your elevator is probably not working more than a few minutes a day in a kind of organised way. The water pressure is so low because of the electricity shortages that the actual water is not coming out of the…is not reaching floors above the 3rd floor of these buildings. If you are an elderly person say living on the 10th floor of that building, you don’t have your elevator reliably, you don’t have reliable access to water. But energy also hits so many other sectors. It hits the health sector very severely, so in hospitals…”

Kasujja: “Because of the sanitation issues, I imagine.”

Piper: “Well firstly the hospitals are so short of electricity that they’re not using their diagnostic equipment very often because it’s very energy intensive. But indeed, in a broader sense as well. Water treatment is now basically zero so pollution is going…untreated water is going straight into the Mediterranean every day; about 100,000 cubic meters. So across the board – health, water supply, sanitation services and the wider economy – having to pay diesel to turn a generator on to irrigate your farm fields means that the cost of vegetables and so forth, everything is creeping up and of course…”

Following that description of the situation, the conversation then turns to the subject of its cause. Of course as regular readers well know, the exacerbated electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip – with all its various knock-on effects such as sewage treatment – has nothing to do with Israel but is the result of a long-standing dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, both of which could solve the crisis if they so desired. As Robert Piper’s report shows, he knows that too but nevertheless, BBC audiences around the world are not informed of the real background to this story.

Kasujja: “So how do you change all this? How do you turn this around?”

Piper: “Well for us this is a 10 year trend. I think the latest crisis in Gaza around energy for us is just a wake-up call of the long-term chronic issues that have been building over 10 years. It is a function…for us really trying to make an appeal to all of the actors involved. To put people back at the centre of their policy considerations…”

Kasujja: “Actors involved including who? Because, for example, the Hamas are not considered partners by Israel.”

Piper: “Well indeed this is a 10 year…this is a 10 year report and it recognizes three events about 10 years ago. First is the violent take-over by Hamas of the Gaza Strip and Hamas is now the de facto authority in Gaza. Secondly, the increasingly tough closures that are effectively a blockade that Israel placed around Gaza. And thirdly, the ejection of the Palestinian Authority from the Gaza Strip by Hamas and division that followed in the sort of governance of Palestine. So we had these three events each of which have, you know, between them I should say has really had devastating consequences. So when you talk about who we’re speaking to, it’s all of these three but it’s also the international community, of course, which plays a very important role in Gaza.” [emphasis added]

Notably, Piper’s report specifically states (on page 8) that the counter-terrorism measures introduced by Israel after the violent Hamas coup in the Gaza Strip and the subsequent rise in missile attacks have been eased since they were first implemented. Whether or not Kasujja had actually read the report before this interview took place we do not know, but he neither challenges Piper on that false claim of “increasingly tough closures” nor bothers to inform listeners of the Hamas terrorism that is the reason why such measures had to be implemented in the first place.

Kasujja: “Is there still an appetite in trying to resolve these problems in Gaza because possible you [unintelligible] paint a very political problem because I get the sense that they need to sort out the politics first before any meaningful humanitarian work is done and the question then becomes whether there’s an appetite for that in the international community; for that sort of engagement by the international community.”

Piper: “Well I think firstly I have a problem with the sequence of events. We can’t put the humanitarian after the politics. This picture that we paint for 2 million Gazans is really an increasingly desperate, desperate picture in terms of all of these issues: access to water, to energy, to jobs. The economy is going backwards. Really I think you…our appeal above all is to say firstly let’s…let’s put people first and let’s look at some of the strategies and policies that are being deployed by Israel, by the Palestinian Authority, even by Hamas, in terms of whether they are indeed protecting the interests of civilians or not. That has got to be a starting point. That has got to come before politics in our opinion.”

Kasujja: “Really good to talk to you and thank you very much for your time, Robert Piper. Robert is from the UN. He coordinates humanitarian aid and development activities.”

The programme’s second presenter, Julian Keane, then added:

Keane: “Interesting to hear an answer: daily life in Gaza – which so often is in the headlines.”

Obviously BBC World Service listeners did not “hear an answer” at all. The word terrorism did not appear once in this item and no background information was provided concerning topics such as the missile attacks or cross-border attack tunnels that are the reason for the restrictions on movement and access introduced by Israel.

Neither were audiences given a true picture of the real cause of the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip. Instead, uninformed listeners were steered towards the erroneous understanding that Israeli counter-terrorism measures play some part in the fact that ordinary people in Gaza only have two or three hours of electricity a day. Listeners, however, heard nothing at all about Egypt’s implementation of similar measures on its border with the Gaza Strip or its destruction of the tunnels in Rafah through which cheap fuel was once smuggled. 

It is very obvious that this was not a news item at all but merely the BBC’s uncritical contribution to a PR campaign promoting a UN report that relies heavily on political NGOs and previous partisan UN reports.

Related Articles:

More BBC disinformation on Gaza power crisis

BBC News parrots inaccurate claim from a politicised UN agency

BBC’s Knell reports on Gaza power crisis – without the usual distractions

BBC bows out of coverage of 10 years of Hamas rule in Gaza 

 

 

PA glorification of terrorism once again ignored by the BBC

In late May the BBC’s Middle East editor wrote an article summing up the US president’s visit to Israel in which he told BBC audiences that:

“One pointer to a potential difference with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu came at the museum. In his opening remarks, Mr Netanyahu said that if the bomber in Manchester was Palestinian, and his victims were Israelis, the Palestinian Authority would be paying a stipend to his family.

He was referring to a Palestinian Martyrs’ fund. It pays pensions to people it regards as victims of the occupation, including the families of individuals who have been killed attacking Israelis. There is also a fund to support Palestinians who have been imprisoned by Israel. The Palestinians have compared the payments to the salaries Israel pays to soldiers.

President Trump, in his speech, did not pick up the cue.

After making many warm remarks about Israel, which earned him standing ovations, he said he believed that the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, was serious about making peace.

Senior Israeli politicians and officials in the room disagree. Prime Minister Netanyahu said earlier this year that President Abbas lied to Donald Trump when they met in the White House.” [emphasis added]

As was noted here at the time:

“The BBC’s Middle East editor does not of course bother to inform the corporation’s audiences that Mahmoud Abbas did indeed lie when he stated during that Washington visit that:

“Mr. President, I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace.”

Of course the BBC’s long-standing editorial policy of avoidance of meaningful reporting on the issue of the PA’s incitement and glorification of terrorism – including among children – means that audiences would be unable to fill in Bowen’s deliberate blanks.”

Another recent example of Palestinian Authority glorification of terrorism that has been completely ignored by the BBC came to light last month when the PA dedicated a square in the town of Jenin to the planner of the infamous Ma’alot massacre in 1974 in which 22 children and 4 adults were killed.

After protests, the mayor of Jenin decided to remove the monument but stated that the square would continue to be named after the terrorist. However, after pressure from Fatah and others, the monument was restored, only to be dismantled again by the IDF two days later. A street in another town was subsequently named after the same terrorist.

As PMW reported, not only did the DFLP (the faction to which the terrorist belonged) and Mahmoud Abbas’ own party Fatah continue to protest the removal of the monument but official PA TV also joined the glorification of that terror attack.

The BBC, however, continues to fail its audiences by refraining from providing the readily available information which would enhance their understanding of the involvement of the Palestinian Authority and its ruling party Fatah in promoting violence, incitement and glorification of terrorism.

 

 

The missing word in BBC R4 reporting on UNESCO Hebron resolution

h/t DS

On the evening of July 7th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ heard extensive coverage of that day’s UNESCO resolution declaring the old city of Hebron an endangered ‘Palestinian’ world heritage site – but with one word critical for audience understanding of the story repeatedly omitted.

The programme’s synopsis reads: [emphasis in bold added]

“Israel has strongly criticised UNESCO’s declaration that Hebron is a World Heritage site.”

Presenter Razia Iqbal gave listeners the headlines at the start of the programme (from 00:40), including:

“Israel has strongly criticised a UN decision to declare Hebron a world heritage site. We’ll get the Palestinian response.”

Listeners then heard what it later became apparent was an edited and spliced statement from Manuel Hassassian:

“I’m not only pleased but I’m thrilled that UNESCO is preserving the culture and the identity of the Palestinian people in Hebron.”

The programme continued with a news bulletin read by Charles Caroll in which (at 05:32) listeners heard the following:

“The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned the decision of the UN cultural body to declare the old city of Hebron a protected world heritage site. He called it delusional. Palestinian diplomats had urged UNESCO to fast-track the site’s addition to the list of world heritage sites in danger. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman has more details.”

Bateman: “There were heated scenes during the meeting of the UN’s cultural body in Krakow as delegates asked security to remove the Israeli ambassador who’d confronted the chair on the platform. The vote, which followed a submission from the Palestinian delegation, designated the old city of Hebron an endangered world heritage site. The city is holy to all three monotheistic faiths. Rising from its ancient centre is the imposing site known to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs, to Muslims as the Ibrahimi mosque. The city is also one of the West Bank’s most acute flash points. Several hundred Jewish settlers live in the centre, surrounded by 200,000 Palestinians.”

In other words, in the first six and a half minutes of this programme listeners heard three portrayals of the story, all of which omitted any mention of the highly relevant fact that Israel’s objections are actually rooted in UNESCO’s declaration of the old city of Hebron a ‘Palestinian’ site – and the consequent erasure of its Jewish history and heritage – rather than in any objection to conservation per se. 

The same story was the topic of a long item broadcast later on in the programme (from 30:12) and Razia Iqbal’s introduction to that item likewise failed to inform listeners of the real reason for the controversy. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Iqbal: “The ancient city of Hebron is significant for all three monotheistic faiths and it’s often been a contested city. Today it finds itself at the centre of controversy because the UN’s cultural agency has voted to declare the old city of Hebron, which is in the West Bank, as a protected world heritage site. The Palestinians had urged UNESCO to fast-track the process, alleging that Israel was carrying out a number of violations in Hebron where a small community of Jewish settlers lives in the middle of more than 200,000 Palestinians. Israel was deeply opposed to the move and its prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned UNESCO’s decision as delusional.”

Listeners then heard a voice-over translation of the Israeli prime minister’s statement in Hebrew.

“This time they have determined that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is a Palestinian site – in other words, not Jewish – and that the site is endangered. Not a Jewish site? Who’s buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah: our forefathers and mothers. And that this is in danger? Only where Israel is present like in Hebron is freedom of worship guaranteed for everybody.”

Iqbal next introduced an interviewee who appeared days before in a BBC World Service item relating to the same topic and like her colleague, she too presented him as a “tour guide”, failing to inform audiences of the fact that he is an activist in a ‘peacemaking’ group registered in the US.

Iqbal: “The words of the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Elihau McLean is a Jerusalem based tour guide who runs what are described as dual narrative tourist visits to Hebron. He’s been telling me why Hebron is such a…so historically significant.”

McLean: “Hebron is one of the oldest cities in the world. We understand it to be the second oldest city in the holy land after Jericho. Hebron is at least 4,000 years old. There’s an archaeological site in a hilltop called Tel Rumeida or Tel Hebron that dates back to the early Bronze Age about 4,500 years ago and that’s the site of the biblical city of Hebron that’s mentioned in the Bible. That’s also where King David established his kingdom – the kingdom of Judea – over 2,500 years ago. There’s ancient history in Hebron.”

Iqbal: “And it’s significant and important to Jews as well as Muslims and Christians.”

McLean: “That’s right. It’s…first of all Jews have four holy cities in the world. The first holiest city is Jerusalem and our second holiest city is Hebron. Muslims have four holy cities; Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem and Muslims consider Hebron their fourth holiest city after Jerusalem. So it’s holy to Jews and Muslims, certainly, as well as Christians.”

Iqbal: “And politically, how is it currently divided between the Palestinians and Israeli ownership?”

McLean: “So Bill Clinton invited Yasser Arafat and Benjamin Netanyahu in 1997 to a small river in the state of Maryland called Wye River and they negotiated the Hebron Accords where Israel agreed to withdraw from 80% of the city and hand it over to Palestinian Authority control. That 80% is called the letter H one – Hebron 1. H2 – 20% of the city – where 30,000 Palestinians live and about 1,000 Israeli Jews live in that 20%. It’s called H2 and that is the heart of the old city where the Tomb of the Patriarchs is, the Kasbah – the old Arab market. So that’s where most of the tension is; in the old city and in the middle of a region called H2 under Israeli control.”

Iqbal: “What’s your view today in the context of what you do – but also just generally – that UNESCO has declared the old city that you’re talking about as a protected world heritage site? What do you make of that?”

McLean: “I run weekly dual narrative tours and we bring the tourists to Hebron. We have a Palestinian partner organisation so they get a Palestinian tour guide to hear the Palestinian narrative and then they hear the Israeli narrative. So they hear Palestinian speakers, they get to meet soldiers, they get to meet settlers, they get to meet and hear all voices. Our tour is the only nuanced tour of Hebron. With that in mind, I would say that it’s…I feel it’s a bit absurd the UNESCO decision. From what I understand it acknowledges the old city of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs specifically and exclusively as Islamic heritage sites which is a bit absurd considering the Tomb of the Patriarchs is the foundation of Jewish history. It’s the longest standing holy site of Judaism – even more than the Temple itself. That building was never destroyed. It was built by King Herod two thousand years ago: hundreds and hundreds of years even before the arrival of Islam. So how can…even from an Islamic or historical or archaeological point of view… anyone who understands biblical history understands that this is an ancient heritage site. And then it was a church and then it was a mosque. So if we can acknowledge that all three faiths are connected there, I think UNESCO would have a lot more credibility.”

Iqbal: “That was Eliyahu McLean; a Jerusalem tour guide. I’ve also been speaking to Ambassador Manuel Hassassian who is the head of the Palestinian mission to the UK. I asked him for his reaction to UNESCO’s decision.”

Observant audience members would then have realised that they were hearing the first part of the ‘quote’ promoted at the beginning of the programme – as well as what the BBC preferred to edit out of its headline.

Hassassian: “I am not only pleased but I’m thrilled that there is acknowledgement by the international community through UNESCO that Hebron is an occupied city and it should be under the sovereignty of the Palestinian leadership.”

Iqbal: “Well, the UN recognises that Hebron is in the West Bank so that’s not the issue. The issue is the resolution pointing out the committee sees that those areas inside the old city of Hebron that are deemed to be in danger are now protected under a kind of world heritage site notion. What does that mean to the Palestinians?”

Listeners then heard the second half of that spliced quote:

Hassassian: “It means that UNESCO is preserving the culture and the identity of the Palestinian people in Hebron.”

Iqbal: “There has been concern voiced that the application made by the Palestinians to UNESCO only focused on the Islamic period in Hebron’s history and didn’t acknowledge the Christian and Jewish history of key sites in the area. What’s your view of that?”

Seeing as so far listeners had only heard of such concerns from the Israeli prime minister and from an Israeli interviewee, they would be unaware that similar concerns were also raised by the professional body that examined – and recommend not to accept – the Palestinian proposal as well as by several Western countries present at the debate.

Hassassian: “Well you know nobody can deny the fact that…I mean the site in itself also there is of course a tacit agreement and acknowledgement to the Tomb of the Patriarchs there. Nobody is denying that factor and it has been said explicitly in the document that this is, you know, a site that is Muslim, Christian and…err…of course Jewish.”

Iqbal: “Are you saying though that the sites that are clearly of value and significance to all three monotheistic faiths are not being taken care of?”

Hassassian: “Well because Israel controls – we have to understand this – Israel controls the site and Israel has accepted the 300 settlers to reign supreme in that part and to take over, you know, by sheer and brute force the control of that area. Now this resolution comes to say that there is no monopoly, especially using religion, as an excuse to control that part of Hebron.”

Failing to challenge Hassassian’s blatant lie or to remind listeners – and him – that there are Israelis living in that part of Hebron because the Palestinian Authority agreed to such an arrangement twenty years ago and while refraining from clarifying that this latest Palestinian stunt is precisely intended to use religion as a means of controlling that part of the city, Iqbal went on:

Iqbal: “What difference is it going to make on the ground?”

Hassassian: “It makes a big difference. The difference is is [sic] the fact that this is part and parcel of a city that has 200,000 population. They have the right to go there, to practice their religion. It is under the sovereignty of the Palestinians with accessibility to other religions to practice their rights.”

Iqbal: “But hasn’t that been the case already?”

Hassassian: “No it has not been. If you go there, and I was there, ma’am, like six months ago, I had to go through hell in order to enter, you know, the Abrahamic mosque. I had to go through intensive security search and I had to show that I am a Muslim or not. You know: just allow me to enter.”

Iqbal did not bother to ask Hassassian if the security search he had to endure has anything to do with the prevalence of Palestinian terrorism in Hebron or whether the need to show whether he is a Muslim is related to the fact that certain areas of the site – which is run by the Waqf – are open to Muslims but off-limits to Jews for all but ten days a year.  

Iqbal: “And, and you are now saying that it will be absolutely the case that those Israelis and those people who practice Judaism will have access to those sites also, without the kind of treatment that you’re alleging you have to go through when you want to visit the mosque?”

Hassassian: “When there is peace and when is our state not only recognised by the United Nations General Assembly but hopefully by the Security Council and when Israel accepts the Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, I think everything is negotiable.”

Although that would obviously have been a good time – especially in light of that revealing response – to inform listeners of the fact that under the terms of the Oslo Accords the Palestinian Authority is supposed to “ensure free access” to Jewish holy sites in areas under its control – and that already that clause is not properly upheld – Iqbal closed the item there.

Iqbal: “Ambassador Manuel Hassassian who is the head of the Palestinian mission to the United Kingdom.”

As was the case in two other BBC reports on this story (see ‘related articles’ below), audiences were not provided with the relevant context of the PA’s repeated efforts to erase Jewish history and heritage by tabling politicised motions at the UN’s cultural body and neither were they informed that the professional body that examined the Palestinian proposal did not recommend its adoption.

In this report, however, the BBC also failed to present the crux of the story accurately to Radio 4 listeners by repeatedly refraining from including the word ‘Palestinian’ in its description of the UNESCO resolution.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC WS report on PA’s latest UNESCO stunt

BBC’s erases the real story in report on UNESCO’s Hebron resolution 

 

BBC erases the real story in report on UNESCO’s Hebron resolution

As was expected, on July 7th UNESCO passed a resolution declaring the Cave of Machpelah (Tomb of the Patriarchs) an endangered ‘Palestinian’ world heritage site.

That story was the topic of a report titled “Unesco declares Hebron’s Old City Palestinian World Heritage site” that was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the same day and is remarkable for what it does not tell BBC audiences.

The article fails to inform readers that the professional body – ICOMOS – that evaluated the Palestinian application did not support it and stated that “ICOMOS considers that the comparative analysis has not so far justified consideration of this property for the World Heritage List”.

“The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) — a professional body that investigates claims that historic sites are endangered on behalf of UNESCO — earlier rejected the Palestinian claim that the Tomb of the Patriarchs was an endangered site. Its assessment on Hebron, published on Sunday, criticized the Palestinian proposal for ignoring Jewish and Christian heritage in the city, “even though extensive remains testify to these links.””

The BBC’s report quotes a PA statement:

“Today, Palestine and the world, through Unesco, celebrate Hebron as part of world heritage, a value that transcends geography, religion, politics, and ideology,” a Palestinian foreign ministry statement said.

“This vote celebrated facts and rejected the shameless high-profile political bullying and attempts at extortion.””

Notably, that particular statement was chosen for amplification rather than other distinctly more political ones made by Palestinian parties such as a Fatah spokesman:

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement welcomed the vote. Fatah spokesman in Europe Jamal Nazzal said it was “historic justice” and was “another reflection of the international position which opposes Israeli policy, and of our position which rejects recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation.””

Or the PA’s foreign minister:

““This vote is a success for a diplomatic battle fought by Palestine on all fronts, in the face of the Israeli and American pressure on the member states … and a failure and a tremendous defeat Israel,” Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a statement.

“Despite the aggressive Israeli campaign, spreading lies, distorting and falsifying facts about the Palestinian right, the world recognized our right to register Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque under Palestinian sovereignty and on the World Heritage List,” Maliki added.

“Israel’s occupation of our state does not give it sovereignty over any patch of our land in any way,” Maliki said.”

Not unrelatedly, the BBC’s report fails to inform audiences of the fact that this is far from the first time that UNESCO has been exploited for politically motivated denial of Jewish history since the Palestinian Authority joined that UN body in 2011.

That practice was specifically called out by some of the countries taking part in the July 7th UNESCO debate:

Canada:  Canada is disappointed by the continued politicization of the work of the World Heritage Committee as evidenced by this decision taken on the old city of Jerusalem and its walls earlier this week, and now by the decision to include the old town of Hebron/al-Khalil on the list of World Heritage in Danger. Canada takes issue with the decision just taken which fails to take into account the independent advisory body’s findings. Findings plainly outlined in the draft decision prepared by the Secretariat. These repeated decisions not only hurt UNESCO, they do not advance prospects for the comprehensive, just and lasting peace to which we aspire for the sake of all Israelis and Palestinians.

United States:  The decision to inscribe Hebron/al-Khalil Old Town on emergency basis is divisive, confusing, and impossible to justify. This site is not under any real or immediate threat. Indeed, the only urgency here is an urgency to express political anger. Had the Committee shown patience, this inscription might have represented, at some time in the future, an example of the World Heritage Convention acting as the international community’s best and most important tool for cultural dialogue, mutual understanding and peace. Instead, the politically motivated decision today to inscribe, only further stains UNESCO’s reputation and further divides this house.

Australia: Australia regrets this decisive decision and the damaging way in which it was reached. We are concerned that this was not only harmful to Israeli and Palestinian relations but obviously damaging the World Heritage Committee and to UNESCO.

We are concerned that the heavily politicized and unbalanced language in these resolutions continue to be seen to alter the status quo of Islamic, Jewish and Christian holy sites and they are not consistent with the effort to preserve the outstanding universal values of these sites.

Australia has consistently not supported these resolutions that target Israel in multilateral forum and we do not consider that these brings both parties closer to a negotiated settlement. We are focused on supporting those initiatives which reflect and maintain progress towards a negotiated settlement so that Israel and a future Palestinian state can exist side by side in peace and security. These sorts of decisions do not advance that agenda. It furthermore fails in recognizing the advice of our advisory bodies and we encourage all sides to refrain from further provocative actions and statements that undermine prospects for peace and the interests of our organization.”

The BBC, however, elected to ignore the statements by Canada and Australia and reports only a selective version of the US representative’s comments:

“The US had argued that the Tomb of the Patriarchs was “under no immediate threat” and that adding it to the list of sites in danger “risked undermining the seriousness such an assessment by Unesco should have”.

It had also warned that the resolution might undermine efforts by US President Donald Trump to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.”

The real story behind this latest UNESCO resolution is of course the continuing politicisation of that body and the hijacking of its mission for the purpose of delegitimisation of Israel through erasure of Jewish history. BBC audiences, however, are serially deprived of that crucial background information under an editorial policy that fails to comply with the corporation’s public purposes.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC WS report on PA’s latest UNESCO stunt 

Internal Palestinian politics again off the BBC’s agenda

Although the BBC was not among them, numerous media outlets reported last week that Hamas is building a new buffer zone along the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt.

“The Hamas interior ministry has begun to prepare a buffer zone between the Gaza Strip and its border with Egypt. Websites associated with the Hamas posted on Wednesday photographs of bulldozers clearing ground dozens of meters in width along the border.

The ministry stated that the works were intended to bolster security and strengthen the organization’s control along the border. It also said a 12-kilometer patrol road with guard posts, lighting and cameras along it will be paved along the border.

Gaza security forces chief Tawfiq Abu Naim said the project was agreed upon during the last visit by a Hamas delegation to Egypt. The buffer zone will be 100 meters wide (approx. 320 feet), stretching into the Palestinian side of the border, he said. It will be a closed military zone and will help monitor the border and prevent infiltration and smuggling.

“The message to the Egyptian side is a calming one: Egyptian national security is part of Palestinian national security, and we will not let the peace along the southern border be disturbed,” Abu Naim said.

Sources in Gaza told Haaretz that the works will force a lot of families out of their homes. Hamas will have to either pay these families compensation or find them alternative housing.”

That recent visit by a Hamas delegation to Egypt also appears to have germinated collaboration between Egypt, Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, as Khaled Abu Toameh explains:

“Last month, Hamas leaders traveled to Cairo for talks with Egyptian intelligence officials and representatives of Dahlan, on ways of ending the “humanitarian crisis” in the Gaza Strip. It was the first meeting of its kind between Dahlan’s men and Hamas leaders.

Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official, disclosed that the two sides reached “understandings” over a number of issues, including the reopening of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, and allowing entry of medicine and fuel for the power plants in the Gaza Strip. […]

The unexpected rapprochement between Dahlan and Hamas has already resulted in the return of some of Dahlan’s loyalists to the Gaza Strip. Now, everyone is waiting to see if and when Dahlan himself will be permitted to return to his home in the Gaza Strip.

Sources in the Gaza Strip believe that the countdown for Dahlan’s return has begun. The sources also believe that he may be entrusted with serving as “prime minister” of a new government, while Hamas remains in charge of overall security in the Gaza Strip.”

If that is indeed the case, then Mahmoud Abbas’ recent steps designed to pressure Hamas would appear to have backfired, as Ha’aretz points out:

“Dahlan’s associates have leaked information to the Arabic-language media regarding much bigger plans. Dahlan, it is said, is about to be appointed the new prime minister of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, with Hamas’ consent. […]

But Israeli defense officials were skeptical about the media report. It appears that things haven’t been finalized. Dahlan is due to meet with Hamas officials shortly. […]

The Gaza initiative of Dahlan, who has deep ties with Egyptian intelligence, indicates that he, like Hamas and Egypt, also sees that Abbas is in a position of weakness. Abbas’ recent meetings with envoys for Donald Trump ended in disappointment. The extent of the U.S. president’s determination to jump-start the peace process remains to be seen, and the PA has been suffering worsening economic problems of its own amid dwindling contributions from the Gulf states.”

As has been noted here on many occasions, the topic of internal Palestinian politics in general is one that has long been under-reported by the BBC and the simmering rivalry between Abbas and Dahlan has been serially ignored. As this story develops – and despite the fact that the BBC is one of the few media organisations to have a bureau in Gaza – audiences once again lack the background information that would enable its understanding.

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