Palestinian envoy’s falsehoods go unchallenged on BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, in the first part of the July 19th edition of ‘Hardtalk‘ (aired on the BBC News channel and the BBC World News channel and available to viewers in the UK on BBC iPlayer for the next eleven months) BBC audiences were exposed to a series of falsehoods, distortions and whitewashing of the ‘Great Return March’ violence that has been taking place throughout the past four and a half months.

After presenter Stephen Sackur had allowed his guest the PA envoy Riyad Mansour to get away with pretending not to have heard violent threats against Israelis from Hamas’ top man in the Gaza Strip, he changed the topic of the conversation.

Sackur: “You earlier referred to Gaza as a prison. You talked about the desperate conditions – humanitarian conditions – that people live in; pretty much 2 million people inside the Gaza Strip. In that circumstance, why is it that over recent months the Palestinian Authority has been imposing its own financial punishments and sanctions on the people of Gaza?”

Mansour retorted “I would not use, you know, these words that you are using” before going on to state that the Palestinian National Council had authorised the payment of salaries to employees of the Palestinian National Authority in Gaza.

Viewers were not told that those employees – who have not worked since 2007 – have repeatedly had their salaries cut and withheld by the Fatah dominated PA since April 2017. Instead, interrupting Mansour, Sackur went on:

Sackur: “Well forgive me Ambassador; maybe it’s slipped your mind but you know in recent months, after the failure it seems of the last reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah, what we’ve seen is Mahmoud Abbas – the president of the Palestinian Authority – impose different punishments on Gaza including holding shipments of medicine, cutting payments for Gaza’s electricity; all sorts of different ways in which the people of Gaza are suffering – not at the hands of Israel or even Egypt which closes its border crossing with Gaza – but at the hands of fellow Palestinians.”

As regular readers will be aware, BBC audiences have not been informed of the PA’s cuts of medical supplies and treatment referrals to Gaza Strip residents. Moreover, since that PA policy began, the BBC has continued to mislead audiences with regard to the background to the chronic crisis affecting healthcare in the Gaza Strip by leading them to believe that it is connected to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures.

Similarly, with the exception of one report on the BBC News website, audiences have been repeatedly led to mistakenly believe that the chronic electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip is also related to those same counter-terrorism measures. It is therefore highly unlikely that viewers of this programme would be able to recognise Mansour’s denial as the falsehood it is.

Mansour: “I don’t think that this is accurate but if you’re saying that there is much more that can be done to help our people in Gaza, that is true. And the Palestinian government – including President Mahmoud Abbas – is trying with many parties, including the Egyptians and the United Nations and other parties, to alleviate the situation, the difficult situation of our people in the Gaza Strip.”

Sackur then asked:

Sackur: “I mean you say you represent all Palestinians: have you seen the various protests and demonstrations by Palestinians against the policy of the Palestinian Authority inside Gaza? Have you also heard another senior Palestinian – I’m sure a man you know well; Mohamed Dahlan – who has called the PA government corrupt, fascist for punishing the Palestinians of Gaza. He says ‘I can understand the hardships facing the Palestinians. I cannot understand that the Palestinian leadership is imposing additional burdens on the people of Gaza’.”

Seeing as the internal Palestinian power struggles that are the background to Sackur’s chosen quote have been completely concealed from BBC audiences, it is highly unlikely that viewers would be able to put Mansour’s reply into its appropriate context.

Mansour: “Well I wouldn’t use quotation from the individual that you refer to. He used to be representing the Palestinian National Authority in the Gaza Strip. If he is referring to his conduct at that time then one can talk more of that. But he cannot speak with authority or respect about the behaviour of the Palestinian National Authority and the leadership of the Palestinian people, whether in the Gaza Strip or other parts of the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Sackur went on to pose two questions relating to Hamas-Fatah reconciliation and viewers heard Mansour state that the PA’s top priority is reuniting the “land of the State of Palestine”, even though no such state currently exists. Despite the BBC’s style guide recognising that fact – “There is no independent state of Palestine today” – viewers then heard Sackur use the same term.

Sackur: “There is another development which may or may not come to fruition in the next few weeks and that is the grand plan, the ultimate deal, the deal of the century that Donald Trump and his team say they’re going to put on the table to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict. Jared Kushner, his son-in-law is in charge of it. He said recently after a trip to the Middle East where he saw the Israelis, he saw the Saudis, he saw the Gulf leaders – he didn’t see any Palestinians ‘cos you appear to be absolutely unwilling to talk to the Trump team – Kushner said this: ‘the Palestinian leadership is scared that we will release our peace plan and the Palestinian people will actually like it’. Are you scared?”

Referring to Kushner, Mansour claimed “He is on one hand talking tough and on the other hand he is begging for us to engage with him” before going on:

Mansour: “For us if Jerusalem is off the table, refugees off the table and those who say that they are concerned about our people in the Gaza Strip they cut off $300 million from the budget of UNRWA, so how could you be helping the people in the Gaza Strip by depriving them of this large sum of money that helps 1.2 million Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip? And also they say settlements now is not objectionable and they don’t refer much to the occupied Palestinian territories. What is left on the table to talk about?”

Sackur “Why are the Saudis, the Gulf State leadership, the Egyptians and the Jordanians all very happy to talk to the Americans and appear to be involved in trying to figure out how a peace plan might work? It seems you’re dangerously isolated.”

Mansour: “We are not isolated. They are engaging them for their own reasons including things related, you know, to the role of Iran in the region.”

Mansour went on to state that the PA wants to convening “an international conference” of “all relevant parties including the Americans, including the Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese, the Japanese and others” while claiming that the Americans “disqualified themselves from being honest broker”.

Sackur pointed out that there “won’t be a process without the Americans”, asking:

Sackur: “Are you Palestinians seriously saying that as long as Donald Trump’s in the White House you will not in any way whatsoever engage with the Americans?”

Mansour: “We will engage with them in collective process, through an international conference.”

Mansour then claimed that the UN Security Council had “legislated a decision to call for an international conference to be convened in Moscow”. Sackur did not clarify to viewers that he was apparently referring to the decade-old UN SC resolution 1850 which Abbas tried to resurrect in February of this year.

Sackur next raised the subject of opinion polls showing dissatisfaction with Palestinian leadership, stating “more than 60% of Palestinians…think Abbas should resign” and pointing out that he has “no obvious successor”.

Unchallenged by Sackur, viewers heard Mansour promote the fiction that the Palestinians have been ‘peacefully’ negotiating with Israel “for more than 20 years”.

Mansour: “One cannot blame the Palestinian people for their frustration. We tried the peaceful negotiation process for more than 20 years after the Oslo agreement and instead of putting an end to this occupation and enjoying independence, the reality on the ground moved from bad to worse, especially in the field of settlements. So one cannot but, you know, understand this frustration and the negative feeling among the Palestinian people.”

In response to Sackur’s statement that a generation of Palestinian leaders have failed, Mansour claimed “we assume our share of the responsibility” and went on to say that as a result the Palestinian National Council decided “to dissociate ourselves from the occupation and also not to continue on the path that did not lead us to the end of occupation, meaning the old style of negotiation.”

When Sackur again asked why Mahmoud Abbas has no obvious successor his guest replied:

Mansour: “I am confident that the Palestinian people will be able to elect the appropriate leader to lead us for the ongoing stage.”

Refraining from pointing out that the Palestinian people have not been able to elect their leaders for over twelve years, Sackur ended the interview there.

As we see, BBC audiences did not see any serious challenge from Stephen Sackur in response to Riyad Mansour’s lies about the ‘Great Return March’ and although Sackur twice insisted in the course of the interview that it was his job to ask ‘hard questions’, he continued to allow him to promote falsehoods on numerous other issues and to whitewash Palestinian violence.

It is of course difficult to see the point of an interview which includes questions relating to topics which the BBC has serially seriously under-reported (such as internal Palestinian power struggles and corruption) or inaccurately reported (such as medical supplies and electricity shortages in the Gaza Strip) – meaning that viewers do not have the basic knowledge necessary to understand the background to the question or form an opinion on the answer.

Related Articles:

Palestinian envoy’s falsehoods go unchallenged on BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ – part one

 

Advertisements

Palestinian envoy’s falsehoods go unchallenged on BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ – part one

As we have sadly had cause to note here on countless occasions over the past four and a half months, the BBC’s coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ propaganda stunt has not included providing audiences with details of the terror factions involved in its planning and organisation.

The BBC has repeatedly and exclusively promoted Hamas-sourced casualty figures while failing to clarify that the terror group is one of the factions involved in financing and facilitating what it repeatedly blandly describes as “protests”.

Many of the BBC’s reports have ignored or severely downplayed the violent rioting which has included hundreds of petrol bomb attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and shooting attacks as well as infiltration attempts and for three months the BBC ignored the issue of the arson attacks launched as part of the weekly agitprop. When it emerged that a significant proportion of those killed during the violent rioting were linked to various Gaza based terror factions, the BBC did a disappearing act.

Those editorial policies were on display once again in the July 19th edition of ‘Hardtalk‘ aired on the BBC News channel and the BBC World News channel, which will remain available to viewers in the UK on BBC iPlayer for the next eleven months.

“There have been three costly spasms of violent conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza over the last 11 years. In the past week, a fourth seemed dangerously close. HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Palestine’s Ambassador at the United Nations, Riyad Mansour. With the Trump administration claiming a new US peace plan is coming soon, is there any prospect of change in the grim status quo?”

The programme commenced with presenter Stephen Sackur asking Riyad Mansour the same question three times while quoting Hamas sourced casualty figures and portraying violent rioting as ‘protests’.

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

Sackur: “Let me begin with a very grim figure. It now seems 140 Palestinians at least have been killed by Israeli forces during protests that began in March along the Gaza-Israel border. Is it not time now for senior Palestinians such as yourself to make a clear call to all Palestinians in Gaza to stop those protests in the interests of saving life?

Mansour: “Well I think you have it the wrong way. It is in the interest of saving lives that Israel should stop killing Palestinian civilians and injuring more than 15,000 since March 30th. And the international community is on the side of this kind of articulation because when we went to the Security Council seeking protection for the civilian population from Israeli attacks and aggression against our civilian population, the great majority of members of the Security Council endorsed the draft resolution which was denied by casting one single vote. And then we went to the General Assembly and we have a resolution that was adopted by 120 countries versus 8 calling for providing international protection for the civilian population in the occupied Palestinian territory and the Secretary General was asked to submit a report with recommendations and suggestions to provide protection for the civilian population – the Palestinian civilian population – including international protection mechanism and he has until the 13th of next month to submit that report. We are engaging his teams with ideas and suggestions to fulfil such a demand for providing protection for the civilian population under Israeli occupation.”

Sackur did not bother to clarify to viewers that the UN GA resolution to which Mansour referred is non-binding.

Failing to challenge his guest’s repeated inaccurate and misleading portrayal of those involved in the ‘Great Return March’ as exclusively ‘civilians’ Sackur went on:

Sackur: “There is no doubt that governments and human rights groups as well have issued words of condemnation of the way Israel’s forces have handled this on the border.”

He then repeated his question while severely downplaying the violence, attacks and border infiltrations which have characterised the weekly events since their inception.

Sackur: “Is it not time for Palestinian officials to tell all of those who gather at the border – including those who go with Molotov cocktails and those who go with the kites and the balloons which carry those firebombs over the fence and onto Israeli farmland – is it not time for you to call a halt to all of that?”

Mansour: “I think that when you have people living in that huge prison in the Gaza Strip – 2 million of them – for a long period of time, there is a tremendous amount of poverty, a dire situation and frustration. So when the civilian population decided from the 30th of March to peacefully protest against that miserable, disgusting situation why is it that, you know, that somebody to suggest for the Palestinian civilian population to stop, you know, their civilian activities, peaceful activities against this occupation, to lift the blockade and to allow the Palestinian civilians to enjoy in the Gaza Strip the access and movement…”

With no challenge to his guest’s inaccurate description of the violent rioting and attacks as ‘peaceful protest’ and making to effort to remind viewers that the Gaza Strip has not been ‘occupied’ for thirteen years, Sackur interrupted Mansour in order to pose his question for a third time.

Sackur: “Whatever the situation in terms of Israel’s open fire policy on that border, you know and Hamas leaders in Gaza know that if people go down to that border – particularly if they go with an intent to throw Molotov cocktails or fly their kites – they are going to be targeted and in the interests of saving life, is it not time for this to end?”

Mansour: “I think that it is in the interest of saving lives to do the following: one, for the Israeli armed forces not to be trigger happy to aim at civilians and to shoot them. Secondly, if international presence to get closer to the borders – whether UN international presence or Red Cross teams – I think that that would lead to saving civilian lives. It is the right of not only the civilian Palestinian population but all civilian populations in any corner of the globe have the right to peacefully protest against certain issues that are influencing them in a very negative way. That is also including the Palestinian civilian population in the occupied territory including in the Gaza Strip.”

Sackur: “Things have escalated in the last week or so as you know. Last weekend we saw roughly 200 rockets and mortars fired towards Israeli territory from positions inside Gaza. Sderot – one Israeli town – was hit. In return the Israelis used their war planes to bomb targets across Gaza. What is your message to those inside Gaza who resumed the rocket and mortar fire?”

Sackur failed to clarify that those events in fact began when an Israeli officer was wounded in a grenade attack during what only seconds before had been portrayed to BBC audiences as ‘peaceful protest’, thereby paving the way for Mansour’s subsequent distortion of events.

Mansour: “Well first of all I’m not so sure that, you know, that this cycle of violence was initiated by the Palestinians. I think it was initiated by the Israeli aircraft and their bombardment, by their artillery in which a number of children were killed – at least four – and more than 65 have been injured through this violence from the Israeli side. I don’t believe that there is, you know, but maybe one or two from the Israeli side that were injured through this cycle of violence. From our position that we declare very repeatedly, we are against the killing of innocent civilians from any side and under any conditions.”

Failing to ask Mansour exactly how that ‘position’ aligns with the Palestinian Authority’s provision of financial rewards for terrorism, Sackur allowed Mansour to claim that an “international presence” would “provide protection for our people and would put an end to any justification from the Israeli side to unleash its massive military and armed fire against the civilian population.”

Quoting a speech made by Yahya Sinwar in April, Sackur went on:

Sackur: “One more question about Hamas. Obviously you represent the Palestinian Authority as the ambassador at the United Nations. Hamas – not the Palestinian Authority – is in control in Gaza and the leader of Hamas – I think he’s styled the prime minister – Yahya Sinwar, he said of the continued protests ‘we will ultimately take down the border and we’ll tear out their hearts from their bodies’. Of course he’s talking about Israelis – Israeli citizens. What is your view of language like that?”

Mansour: “First of all, I am the representative of the State of Palestine at the United Nations and I represent not only the Palestinian National Authority – I represent all Palestinians inside the occupied territories and outside the occupied territories.”

Sackur: “So you represent Yahya Sinwar?”

Mansour: “I represent everyone.”

Sackur: “So tell me what is your message to Yahya Sinwar?”

Mansour: “I represent all the Palestinian people, including those in the Gaza Strip, here at the UN. With regard to the statement that you refer to, I did not hear it – I am a man of peace, I work under international law, I promote and uphold international law at the UN. In defending the interests of the Palestinian people I do not advocate war. I stand against aggression against all people including the Palestinian people who live under the Israeli occupation including in the Gaza Strip.”

Sackur: “It’s not so much a question of what you advocate it’s a question of what you’re prepared to unilaterally and categorically condemn. Will you condemn those words that I quoted to you?”

Mansour: “I condemn all words that harm civilian populations, whomever they’re emanating from and whomever they’re directed against.”

Refraining from exploring the obviously interesting topic of Hamas being represented at the UN according to the Palestinian envoy and ignoring Mansour’s convenient side-stepping of the issue of Hamas’ blatant agression, Sackur then changed the subject – as we will see in part two of this post.

Weekend long read

1) Palestinian Media Watch examines the Palestinian Authority’s payments to the perpetrators of the Sbarro terror attack which took place 17 years ago this week.

“The suicide bomber was Izz al-Din Al-Masri. His family has received $50,124 as a reward for his suicide bombing.

The terrorist who planned the attack and brought the bomber to Sbarro was Ahlam Tamimi. Tamimi was arrested in September 2001 and received 16 life sentences. In 2011, Tamimi was released as part of the deal to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from his Hamas captors. For her time in prison she has been rewarded by the PA with salary payments of at least $52,681.

The suicide belt was built by Hamas bomb- builder Abdallah Barghouti. Barghouti was arrested in May 2003, and received 67 life sentences – 15 of them for building the bomb used to murder the people in Sbarro. He has received salary payments from the PA of at least $191,526.”

2) At Tablet Magazine, Liel Leibovitz takes a look at the recent experiences of another member of the Tamimi clan.

“Last December, a 17-year-old Palestinian woman named Ahed Tamimi assaulted an IDF soldier and was arrested and sentenced to eight months in prison. She became an inspiration to many critics of Israel, and helped inspire several Democrats to write a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and ask that he take up the cause. “We encourage the State Department to stress the importance of ensuring proper treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli detention,” read the letter, “and address this matter in the Department’s next report on global human rights.”

How, then, are young Palestinians detained by Israel treated? Tamimi herself addressed this issue with an interview on Al-Jazeera celebrating her release.”

3) David Daoud reviews the background to the recent assassination of a Syrian scientist.

“A car bomb killed high-ranking Syrian regime scientist Dr. Aziz Esber on Saturday as he was leaving his home in Masyaf, in the countryside of Syria’s Hama Governorate. The explosion also claimed the life of Esber’s driver. In a statement broadcast on its Telegram channel, the “Abu Amara Special Operations Detachment” – a group affiliated with the Organization for the Liberation of al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front – claimed credit for the attack. The group alleged that, after a “surveillance operation,” it had succeeded “planting explosive device” on Esber’s car, and then detonating it and killing him. […]

A Syrian regime source described Esber as one of the regime’s “most import resources for Syrian military power,” and said he was “capable of developing various kinds of weapons, primarily missiles.” The source claimed that, at the time of his death, Esber had been working on upgrading the Syrian Army’s capabilities to help it achieve “parity with the [Israeli] enemy,” and restoring the capabilities it possessed prior to the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War. This dovetails with information t from Syrian opposition sources claiming that Sector IV was working on a project dubbed “Project 99,” focused on developing SCUD missiles in cooperation with North Korean scientists.” 

4) Matthew Levitt documents the history of Iranian terror and assassinations abroad.

“With the July arrest of an Iranian diplomat in Germany for his role in an alleged plot to bomb a rally of Iranian dissidents in Paris, U.S. officials have warned allies to be vigilant of Iranian terrorist plotting elsewhere. Indeed, there is ample precedent for such concern. For decades, Tehran has been dispatching operatives to Europe to carry out assassinations and other acts of terrorism. […]

Immediately following the founding of the Islamic Republic, the Iranian leadership embarked on an assassination campaign targeting individuals deemed to be working against the regime’s interests. Between 1979 and 1994, the CIA reported that Iran “murdered Iranian defectors and dissidents in West Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Turkey.” Overall, more than 60 individuals were targeted in assassination attempts. In many cases, Hezbollah members functioned as the logistics experts or gunmen in these plots.”

Weekend long read

1) At the Gatestone Institute, Douglas Murray discusses “The Great British Foreign Office Fantasy“.

“According to the British Foreign Office, the Golan Heights are ‘occupied’. They have been ‘occupied’ – according to the logic of the UK Foreign Office – since 1967, when Israel took the land from the invading forces of Syria. Ever since then, the Israelis have had the benefit of this strategic position and the Syrian regime has not. This fact, half a century on, still strikes the British Foreign Office as regrettable, and a wrong to be righted in due course. […]

The ongoing madness of the British Foreign Office’s position has been highlighted in recent days thanks to a request which came from the British government, as well as the governments in other European capitals and in Washington. A request which also involved the Golan.”

2) The ITIC has updated its report on a study of Palestinian Authority school textbooks.

“An examination of the new textbooks issued by the PA shows they continue expressing, and in some instances by radicalizing, the same basic principles that appeared in previous textbooks: the delegitimizing of the State of Israel, demonizing the State of Israel, encouraging violence against it and an absence of education for peace. The books, which are strongly hostile to Israel and the Jewish people, are also used by UNRWA-run school, half of whose budget is devoted to education.”

3) The ITIC has also published a report on a ‘flotilla’ bound for the Gaza Strip and expected to arrive in the area next week.

“Three small boats of the flotilla to the Gaza Strip set sail on July 21 and 22, 2018, and are expected to arrive around the end of July. Before they left for the Gaza Strip they conducted a series of propaganda visits to various European ports. The flotilla’s objective is to help the Palestinian propaganda campaign that accompanies the “return marches” by raising awareness to the demand to lift the “siege” on the Gaza Strip. That is supposed lead to international solidarity with the Gazans while defaming Israel.

On July 16, 2018, four boats anchored in the port of Palermo, Sicily, and from there three of them set sail together for the Gaza Strip on July 21, 2018. The most prominent figure in organizing the flotilla is Zaher Birawi, a Palestinian anti-Israeli activist living in Britain, affiliated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Birawi has many years of experience in organizing flotillas and convoys to the Gaza Strip. His official title is “coordinator of the international committee for breaking the siege on the Gaza Strip.””

Readers may recall that Birawi is also linked to ‘Great Return March’ agitprop which has been staged along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel since late March. The ITIC has also published an update to that report with details of the identities of the flotilla’s participants, one of whom is the founder of ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ (MAP) who has in the past been interviewed by the BBC.

4) At Tablet magazine, Tony Badran discusses “Putin’s New Rules for the Golan Heights“.

“Since the start of the offensive in southern Syria last month, there have been all kinds of optimistic takes on how Russia will agree to rein in the Iranians in Syria. But what Putin actually wants to do, his language suggests, is to establish Russia as the central interlocutor for everyone in the region. To that end, what could be better than the tried and true path of hosting talks between Israel and its adversaries in Syria?

Of course, the notion that Israel would restart talks about the Golan when the Iranians are entrenching themselves in Syria is laughable in the extreme—and the Russians clearly know this. Instead, they might start with technical talks, say, about how best to implement the Separation of Forces agreement, or about the modalities of the return of the Assad regime to the area. That, as Putin said, would be the first step.”

 

 

 

A context-free ‘Today’ report from the BBC’s Paul Adams in Gaza

Many thanks to all those who wrote in to alert us to an item aired in the July 25th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme Today. That report by Paul Adams – currently a BBC diplomatic correspondent and formerly twice based in Jerusalem – was introduced by presenter Mishal Husain (from 0:47:15 here) with multiple inaccuracies.

Husain: “Israel has partially reopened the Kerem Shalom crossing point into the Gaza Strip allowing fuel to enter the territory for the first time in two weeks. The crossing was closed earlier this month after incendiary kites were flown across the border setting fire to agricultural land inside Israel.”

Firstly, the Kerem Shalom crossing was not “closed” – and therefore also not “reopened”. As the BBC News website reported on July 17th, restrictions were placed on the types of goods allowed through:

“No fuel will enter through Kerem Shalom until Sunday, but food and medicine deliveries will still be permitted.” [emphasis added]

The restriction on fuel and gas imports was lifted at noon on July 24th after having been in force since July 17th: in other words for seven and a half days. Husain’s claim that fuel had entered the territory “for the first time in two weeks” is hence inaccurate. Listeners were not told that the restrictions were introduced not only after “incendiary kites were flown across the border” by parties Husain refrains from identifying but also after terror factions in the Gaza Strip had launched over 200 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians two days beforehand.

Husain continued with an equally context-free portrayal of the violent rioting – pre-planned, financed and facilitated by Gaza terror factions – that has been taking place since the end of March:

Husain: “The UN says the lack of fuel has affected Gaza’s only power plant and hospitals, where hundreds of Palestinians are still being treated after being shot by Israeli soldiers during the protests of recent weeks.

Mishal Husain of course did not bother to inform listeners of the fact that Hamas has been exploiting diesel fuel imported via Egypt and intended for “Gaza’s only power plant” to boost its own coffers and for terror purposes. She went on:

Husain: “But as our diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams reports, health workers are worried about something much more long-term: the deteriorating mental condition of nearly 2 million Gazans.”

With the background to the report having thus been framed as related to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures, Adams commenced by telling a two month-old story.

Adams: “On the busy streets of Gaza a man sets fire to himself. The crowd gathers and the flames are doused. The man is bundled into a taxi. He makes it to hospital but dies two days later. What drove musical newly married Fathi Harb to take his own life? The man in the online videos dressed as a clown or singing to promote a coffee brand. His grandfather Said tries to make sense of Fathi’s death. Like everyone in Gaza he struggled to make a living but his wife Doha was about to give birth to their first child. The baby, Wattan, was born two days after Fathi died.”

Voiceover Grandfather: “No-one knows why he did it but the boy asked himself what kind of life are we living So I think of the same question. Every Palestinian asks himself the same question.”

Adams did not inform listeners that – as reported by some journalists at the time – Fathi Harb was “heard cursing the government” as he set himself on fire. Other media outlets noted that his family had been affected by the Palestinian Authority’s cutting of salaries to employees in the Gaza Strip.

In Paul Adams’ account, however, there is no room for any mention whatsoever of Hamas or the Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority.

Adams: “Suicide is a terrible sin in Islam and yet Fathi Harb chose to do it out in the street in front of dozens of people. He was clearly desperate and so it seems are more and more people here. Gaza’s boiling border has been in and out of the news since March but UN staff have been worried about Gaza’s young men for months.”

Following Adams’ promotion of that false linkage between the economic situation and the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop, listeners heard from “a UN health worker who claimed “more cases” since the beginning of the year. Adams commented that:

Adams: “It seems as though particularly educated young people are especially vulnerable to this kind of suicidal thought.”

The UN health worker gave a reply which conveniently fits in with Adams’ framing of the story, claiming that such people are “open to the world and the same time they cannot see the world.”

Adams continued:

Adams: “And it’s not just suicide. Domestic abuse is another alarming trend. At a UN clinic local women are discussing stress management. With unemployed, depressed husbands and angry, restive children Gaza’s women are under strain.”

After listeners had heard from one of those women, Adams went on, again studiously avoiding any mention of uncomfortable subjects such as Hamas’ use of water and sewage pipes to make rockets or Mahmoud Abbas’ deliberate exacerbation of the Gaza power crisis last year.

Adams: “Gaza has been crumbling for decades. War and economic isolation have taken their toll. There’s no proper drinking water. Electricity comes on for just 3 hours a day – sometimes in the middle of the night.”

Adams then introduced another interviewee:

Adams: “David Hutton runs the UN community mental health programme in Gaza.”

Hutton – who told listeners that “anybody who lives under these conditions” would “have an erosion of coping skills” – actually works for UNRWA and unsurprisingly had nothing to say about Hamas’ responsibility for what he described as “the chronic stress that people live with”. Adams went on:

Adams: “The youngest need help too. ‘Save the Children’ runs a youth centre at Beit Hanoun at the northern end of the Gaza Strip, close to the Israeli border. Encouraged by an instructor, girls in their early teen years play games, sing and forget themselves. But there are haunted faces here too, hanging back, uncertain, troubled.”

Adams did not bother to ask whether those “haunted faces” might be linked to the fact that four years ago, children living in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia were witness to the firing of 69.4% of the 3,356 missiles fired at civilian targets in Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip between July 8th and August 5th 2014.

Adams closed his report with a quote from the NGO which typically avoids mentioning the effects of Palestinian terrorists’ rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli children:

Adams: “‘Save the Children’ say 95% of Gaza’s children experience psychological distress: yet another Palestinian generation growing up with the corrosive effects of a conflict apparently without end.”

As we see, Paul Adams managed to get through his entire report without mentioning the words Hamas and terrorism even once. Obviously such blatantly context-free reporting – along with Mishal Husain’s inaccurate claims -not only contributes nothing at all to the BBC’s public purpose of helping its audiences “engage fully with issues” but actively hinders that process.

 

BBC’s ‘Life in the Gaza Strip’ backgrounder not fit for purpose

When the BBC News website published its July 10th report concerning Israeli actions in light of three months of arson attacks from the Gaza Strip, it also offered readers some background reading.

Titled “Israel-Palestinian conflict: Life in the Gaza Strip“, that backgrounder first appeared in November 2012, was revamped in July 2014 and has been amended on numerous occasions since then, most recently in May 2018.

In its second paragraph the backgrounder tells BBC audiences that:

“It [the Gaza Strip] is under the control of the Palestinian Authority, and between 2007 and 2014 was ruled by the militant Islamist group Hamas. They won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 but then had a violent rift with the rival Fatah faction.” [emphasis added]

Obviously those claims are not accurate: the PA does not exercise control over the territory and Hamas rule did not end in 2014.

Readers are then told that:

“When Hamas took over in Gaza, Israel swiftly imposed a blockade on the territory, restricting the movement of goods and people in and out. Egypt meanwhile blockaded Gaza’s southern border.”

No mention is made of the fact that the counter-terrorism measures imposed by Israel after Hamas’ violent coup in Gaza were a response to increased terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

Once again with the relevant issue of Palestinian terrorism concealed from audience view, under the sub-heading ‘Freedom of Movement’ BBC audiences find the following:

“In the north, crossings into Israel at Erez have picked up marginally this year compared with 2017, but remain well below pre-blockade levels due to new restrictions.

Fewer than 240 Palestinians left Gaza via Israel in the first half of 2017, compared with a daily average of 26,000 in September 2000.” [emphasis added]

According to UNOCHA (quoted on a different topic in the same section), during the first half of 2017, 43,009 people crossed from the Gaza Strip into Israel via the Erez Crossing. Obviously that BBC claim is inaccurate and grossly misleading. Readers are not told that the cited comparison date “September 2000” was immediately before the second Intifada and – crucially – the launching of countless terror attacks from the Gaza Strip.

The context of terrorism – and the resulting restrictions on the passage of workers from the Gaza Strip into Israel and trade – is likewise absent from the backgrounder’s section titled “Economy”.

“Gaza is significantly poorer than it was in the 1990s. Its economy grew only 0.5% in 2017 according to a World Bank report, with annual income per person falling from $2,659 in 1994 to $1,826 in 2018.”

A subsection titled “Population” informs BBC audiences that:

“Gaza has one of the highest population densities in the world. On average, some 5,479 people live on every square kilometre in Gaza. That’s expected to rise to 6,197 people per square kilometre by 2020.

The number of people living there is expected to hit 2.2 million by the end of the decade, and 3.1 million by 2030.”

There are of course many other cities in the world with a higher population density than Gaza City and other places in the world with higher population densities than the Gaza Strip as a whole. Interestingly, an accompanying map shows a higher population density in London than in Gaza.

In a section sub-titled “Health” the BBC once again disseminates inaccurate and misleading claims.

“Access to public health services has worsened due to border restrictions. […]

Exit passes through Israel have also dropped in recent years, with approvals for medical reasons dropping from 93% in 2012 to 54% in 2017.

Moreover, drugs, supplies and equipment are all restricted because of the blockade – including dialysis machines and heart monitors.”

As has been noted here on previous occasions, the restrictions placed on the import of dual-use goods (i.e. items which can be used for terrorist purposes) to the Gaza Strip do not apply to medical supplies. The party responsible for medical services in the Gaza Strip is the Palestinian Authority and it is that body which last year exacerbated the chronic crisis affecting  the healthcare system in Gaza by severely cutting medical aid and referrals for treatment in Israel.

The backgrounder goes on:

“A recent fuel shortage for generators has also affected medical services. The Palestinian Ministry of Health says three hospitals and ten medical centres have suspended services due to a lack of power.”

It is of course the Palestinian Authority which is responsible for the fuel and power shortages in the Gaza Strip that have affected medical services but the BBC’s backgrounder implies that too is attributable to “border restrictions” – i.e. Israeli counter-terrorism measures.

While a section titled “Power” includes an interestingly punctuated link to a 2017 report billed “PA ‘stops paying for Gaza electricity'”, the backgrounder itself does not clarify that in 2011 Hamas elected to discontinue the purchase of fuel from Israel for Gaza’s power plant, instead relying on an erratic supply via smuggling tunnels which were later destroyed by Egypt or that internal disagreements between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas resulted in an exacerbation of the power crisis in the Gaza Strip during 2017.

Similarly, a section titled “Water and sanitation” fails to inform BBC audiences that sewage pipes in the Gaza Strip were used to make rockets, that new supplies of pipes transported in by Israel were diverted for the same purpose rather than being used to solve the Gaza Strip’s sanitation problems or that the electricity crisis exacerbated by the dispute between the PA and Hamas has also seriously affected sewage treatment and water supply

Obviously this ‘backgrounder’ does not give BBC audiences an accurate and impartial view of the reasons why “life in the Gaza Strip” is as it is. The BBC’s failure to report impartially on Hamas’ responsibility for the deterioration of conditions in the Gaza Strip – brought about by its putting continued terrorism against Israeli civilians at a higher level of priority than taking care of the population’s welfare – clearly means that this backgrounder is not fit for purpose and does not meet the BBC’s public purpose of helping audiences understand “issues across…the world”.

Related Articles:

Gaza Strip background the BBC does not provide

BBC News again avoids telling audiences real reasons for Gaza power crisis

 

 

BBC News ignores PA reactions to moves relating to terror payments

As documented here at the time, last week BBC News website visitors saw an exceptionally rare reference to the Palestinian Authority’s payments to terrorists and their families in a report about a new Israeli law linked to that issue.

BBC News does some catch-up reporting on PA’s terror salaries

“In that report BBC audiences were told for the first time that:

“It [the Palestinian Authority] is estimated to spend about $330m each year – about 7% of its budget – on salaries and benefits under the programme.”

The BBC’s first mention of the Taylor Force Act comes in the last paragraph of the report:

“In March, the US Congress approved similar legislation, the Taylor Force Act, which suspends some US financial aid to the PA until it stops making payments to prisoners and their families. The act was named after an American killed in an attack by a Palestinian in Israel in 2016.”

Several days later, attendees at a Fatah Central Committee meeting heard PA president Mahmoud Abbas’ reaction to the Israeli legislation – including the interesting claim that payments to terrorists began even before the existence of any ‘occupation’.

“Abbas lashed out at Israel for its decision to deduct payments made by the PA to families of “martyrs” and security prisoners (from tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinians), saying the Palestinians will take measures in accordance with their interest. He did not provide details about the nature of the measures the Palestinians were planning.

“We won’t allow anyone to interfere with the money [that is paid to the prisoners and families of “martyrs],” Abbas stressed. “They are our martyrs and prisoners and the injured and we will continue to pay them. We started the payments in 1965.””

BBC audiences have not seen any coverage of that statement (along with a vow to reject the anticipated US peace plan before it has even been made public) from Mahmoud Abbas.

As was noted here at the time, the BBC’s report did not inform readers that on the same day as the Israeli law was passed, Australia announced that it had “ended direct aid to the Palestinian Authority over fears its donations will be used to pay Palestinians convicted of terrorism and their families”.

The following day senior Palestinian Authority official Nabil Shaath (who is Abbas’ advisor on Foreign Affairs and International Relations) gave his reaction to that announcement on official PA TV. The Australian reported that Shaath stated:

“Australia’s decision about transferring $10 million angered me greatly. That’s all that Australia pays — $10 million that it pays to us, to the PA, through the international bank,” he said.

“(Australia) said that it transferred (the aid) to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, so that it would not serve the payment of the salaries of the (martyrs and prisoners’) families.

“In other words, the truth is they are worthy of being spat on. You (Australians) are the servants of the US. No decision is made without Australia voting as the US votes — sometimes only these three vote: Israel, America and Australia …

“We do not want to declare war on Australia. But it cannot be, in other words, sometimes there is insolence that is impossible (to accept). I don’t want your $10 million. I don’t want to chase after them.””

Unsurprisingly, BBC audiences have seen no reporting on that story either.

 

BBC Radio 4’s peace process tango for one – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the first half of an edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Analysis‘ titled ‘The Middle East Conundrum’ provided listeners with a long list of Israeli prime ministers who failed to make peace – while deliberately ignoring the role played by the Palestinian leaders with whom such agreements were supposed to be made.

Having erased post-Oslo Palestinian terrorism and the planning of the second Intifada from audience view entirely and with no reference whatsoever to foreign funding of Hamas terror, presenter Edward Stourton likewise presented three rounds of conflict sparked by Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians as something that simply ‘erupted’.

Stourton: “There have been repeated eruptions of conflict between Israel and Gaza and those who try to mediate in the region have seen trust between the two sides steadily eroded by violence.”

He then introduced his next contributor – Gabrielle Rifkind – as someone who “has been involved in conflict resolution in the Middle East for two decades” but without clarifying (as required by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality) the “particular viewpoint” of the organisation – formerly part of the Oxford Research Group – with which she is associated and without mentioning that her “Palestinian colleagues” included the PLO’s Husam Zomlot

Rifkind: “Well I think post-Oslo there was a moment of hope and even some of my Palestinian colleagues would say things like they threw olive branches to the Israelis. There was a belief that things could change and the two sides could live together. But since then there’ve been so many wars…ahm…three rounds of war in Gaza, we’ve had the Lebanon war.”

The Hizballah-initiated second Lebanon war of course had nothing to do with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and while conjuring up “olive branches”, Rifkind erased the post-Oslo terrorism in which hundreds of Israelis were murdered just as Stourton had previously done.

Stourton also managed to erase the 2008 peace offer made to the Palestinians by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert from his account before going on:

Stourton: “There was a flutter of hope that the peace process could be revived in the aftermath of Barak Obama’s arrival in the White House. In 2009, with an eye to Israel’s ever important American relationship, Benjamin Netanyahu – newly elected as prime minister for a second time – gave a conditional acceptance to the idea of a two-state solution.”

Stourton is of course referring to the Bar Ilan speech – which listeners then heard described thus:

Pfeffer: “It was very much a pragmatic rhetorical compromise made because he was dealing with the Obama administration which at the time was putting a lot of emphasis on trying to solve the Palestinian issue and therefore he had to make that concession. If you read those speeches then – the entire speeches – in the fine print you’ll find that he made so many conditions for the establishment of a Palestinian state as to render it almost impossible to ever exist.”

With no mention of the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to come to the negotiating table throughout most of the 2009-10 freeze on new construction in Judea & Samaria, Stourton’s portrayal continued:

Stourton: “The last real peace-making push came during Bara Obama’s second term when John Kerry was Secretary of State.”

Martin Indyk then told listeners that “neither Netanyahu nor Abu Mazen [Abbas] believed that the other was actually serious about making peace and neither of these leaders was being pressed by their publics to make peace because their publics didn’t believe in it.”

Listeners were not however told the real reasons for the collapse of that particular round of talks – including the announcement of Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ which is relevant to Stourton’s next statement.  

Stourton: “On the Palestinian side the stalemate has been attended by a collapse of confidence in the two-state solution and political chaos. The divisions between the Hamas hard-liners and Mahmoud Abbas’ once dominant Fatah movement have become more intractable than ever.”

Listeners heard Gabrielle Rifkind tell them that “the level of kind of tensions and rivalry there is very problematic” and that Palestinians have “lost faith in their leadership and so they’re no longer believing in the idea of a two-state solution” and “they talk about one state, a binational state”. She did not bother to inform BBC audiences of the relevant fact that Hamas – which garnered the majority of support from the Palestinian public last time elections were held in 2006 – has never pretended to support the two-state solution.

Stourton then introduced Dr Khalil Shikaki “director of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah” who told listeners that:

Shikaki: “Most Palestinians are highly pessimistic about the chances of creating a Palestinian State alongside the State of Israel. A lot of those who used to support the two-state solution have now shifted to supporting a one-state solution.”

Those interested in a rather less superficial view of Shikaki’s research can find it here.

Stourton: “What do they envisage?”

Shikaki: “Well to be honest we don’t know exactly what they envisage. […] they want a one-state whereby current Israeli Jews and Palestinians would have equal rights. The state itself would have no national or religious identity. [….] some believe in a bi-national state where the two groups would remain, would maintain their national identities…”

Stourton: “So the idea of a state that is both Jewish and democratic, which has been at the heart of the whole project of Israel, that doesn’t really survive either of those scenarios, does it?”

Shikaki: “No absolutely not.”

Stourton then turned to the subject of demography, claiming that “even if you take Gaza out of the equation, the population percentages in what might be described as a greater Israel present a real challenge – not least because the Palestinian population is growing faster.”

Dennis Ross next told listeners that “Israel and the West Bank….60% Jews to 40% Arabs” and went on:

Ross: “…I think that the issue of Israel becoming a bi-national Jewish-Arab state is one that is quite real. Most Israelis are not addressing it now because they’re looking at the region. They see how terrible the wars in the region are where there’s no limits, where civilians are fair game, where hospitals are a natural target and they say why should we take the risk, especially when we don’t see any opportunity. The danger with that is that it maintains this kind of drift towards a new reality which raises basic questions. Will this be one state with two peoples and if so, how are you going to manage that?”

Stourton: “One way of managing a bi-national state would be to relegate Palestinians to second class citizens without full rights which would sit uneasily with Israel’s proud claim to be a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. The alternative would be to accept that the State of Israel will no longer be a Jewish state.”

Listeners heard Yossi Beilin’s comments on that issue, including “in the Holocaust no country in the world was ready to absorb Jews including Palestine because it was under the British mandate. And the most important notion of a sovereign Jewish state is that it will allow Jews to immigrate to it without restrictions”.

Stourton: “On the Israeli side one party in Mr Netanyahu’s coalition government has put forward a radical solution of its own. Naftali Bennett – one of his ministers – has proposed what he calls the Israel stability initiative.”

A recording of Naftali Bennett speaking was heard before Stourton went on:

Stourton: “Under his plan Israel would hand over Gaza to the Egyptians unilaterally, annex most of the West Bank and allow the Palestinian Authority to run what remained with, however, Israel retaining control of security. Mr Bennett is opposed to any kind of Palestinian state.”

Stourton did not bother to clarify to listeners that what he described as “most of the West Bank” is actually Area C and that Bennett’s proposal is to offer “full Israeli citizenship to the 80,000 Palestinians living there”.

Stourton: “Mr Bennett is one of those we wanted to talk to for this programme but his office never responded to our request. On the Palestinian side the Hamas movement also has a radical vision. It has now expressed a willingness to accept the idea of a Palestinian state within those 1967 boundaries but it’s still, in the long term, committed to the liberation of all Palestine which would of course mean the end of Israel.”

After a recording of part of the US president’s announcement concerning the relocation of his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, Stourton continued:

Stourton: “President Trump has taken two steps which reduced the pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu. He moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, thus recognising the city – to which the Palestinians also make a claim – as Israel’s capital. And he pulled out of his predecessor’s nuclear deal with Iran: a step that’s been taken as an endorsement of the Netanyahu view that Palestinians can be relegated to a lower place in the diplomatic running order.”

Listeners were not told who exactly takes that view besides those making the statements they then heard supporting it.

Rifkind: “I think on the Israeli side, certainly among the leadership, it’s quite easy to keep your head in the sand. You can think you’re in quite a strong position. You just need to look at Netanyahu who’s very good friends with Putin and Trump and the relationships have never been better with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States and you can think well maybe we can just manage this conflict.”

Pfeffer: “Even the major Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Egypt seem of have got tired of even paying lip-service to the Palestinian cause. So yeah; he feels that his vision is winning.”

Stourton: “That means the stalemate and the violence associated with it are likely to continue.”

Once again the Iranian part of the story of shifts in the stances of Middle East states was erased from audience view.

With less than three minutes of the programme left, listeners next heard Dennis Ross make the most realistic and relevant comment in the entire discussion.

Ross:  “…I’ll tell you I don’t see – even if we could agree to a two-state outcome – I don’t know how you implement that because right now Hamas is in Gaza and I don’t see anybody moving Hamas out. The Israelis are not going to move them out. Egypt is not going to move them out. The Palestinian Authority is incapable of moving them out. And so even if you could agree to a two-state outcome – which is itself a leap at this point – you couldn’t implement it.”

Stourton: “In Israel that realism has led to a certain resignation and many Israelis now talk about managing the problem.”

Audiences then heard two negative views of that approach:

Beilin: “I hate this idea of managing conflicts”

Pfeffer: “Well you know it’s a dreadful phrase…”

Pfeffer went on to claim that “..there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight; certainly not with the current Israeli and with the current Palestinian leaderships” before Stourton returned to his context-free presentation of the violent rioting and terror attacks along the Gaza border:

Stourton: “So incidents like the shootings in Gaza become just something one has to accept according to that strategy.”

Pfeffer: “Yes, it’s the equivalent of a bad news day really.”

Stourton closed the programme by bringing up the topic of the Trump administration’s “new peace plan”:

Stourton: “Mr Trump is something of a hero in Israel. When America moved its embassy to Jerusalem his picture went up on posters all over the city. Among Palestinians hopes for a new Trump initiative are – to put it mildly – on the low side. According to Dr Shikaki’s data 90% of Palestinians believe no good can come from a Trump administration.”

As Stourton admitted early on, this programme did not even try to give audiences an objective and balanced view of the reasons why the ‘peace process’ has failed to make inroads after so many years and that editorial decision in itself is a topic for discussion. The quaint view that only Israel needs to have “a long-term strategy” because it is “a fully functioning state with military superiority” clearly deliberately ignores the very relevant fact that no such process can succeed without leaders on both sides being committed to its aims.

But even given the programme producers’ bizarre decision to present a one-sided narrative, crucial elements of the story were omitted. The history – which of course includes three full-scale wars initiated by Arab countries attempting – unsuccessfully – to eradicate the Jewish state – is highly relevant to audience understanding of the background to the conflict, as are decades of Palestinian terrorism that peaked when peace seemed to be on the horizon.

The Palestinian Authority’s ongoing incitement to violence, glorification of terrorism and payment of salaries to convicted terrorists is also a crucial part of the picture, as is Iranian funding of Palestinian terrorism. And no less relevant of course are the proposals put forward by Israeli prime minister Olmert and US president Clinton which the Palestinians refused.

While this Radio 4 portrayal presented Palestinians as being in favour of the two-state solution but turning to the one-state option out of disillusion, notably it failed to inform BBC audiences of the crucial context of the Palestinian Authority’s continued rejection of the demand to recognise Israel as the Jewish state – and thus bring an end to any future claims.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4’s peace process tango for one – part one

 

 

BBC Radio 4’s peace process tango for one – part one

According to the old adage it takes two to tango but an edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Analysis’ – which self describes as a “programme examining the ideas and forces which shape public policy in Britain and abroad, presented by distinguished writers, journalists and academics” – managed to disregard that maxim throughout the overwhelming majority of its 27 and a half minutes.

Titled “The Middle East Conundrum” and presented by Edward Stourton, the programme – aired on July 2nd and repeated on July 8th – was described in the synopsis as follows:

“Edward Stourton asks if there any chance of a long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Tensions have been rising following the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the deadly clashes at the border between Israel and Gaza. The peace process – if it exists at all – seems to be in deep freeze. The idea of a two-state solution does not appear to be getting any closer, while a one-state solution would effectively mark the end of a Jewish state. Does Israel have a long-term strategy?” [emphasis added]

The programme began with a recording of a report by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Bowen: “Palestinians call these protests the Great March of Return. For many of the young people who rushed the borer wire with Israel, it was a one-way journey.”

Stourton: “In mid-May, as Israel marked its 70th anniversary and the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem, some 60 Palestinians were killed during protests along the Gaza border. The story’s dropped out of the headlines but the protests and the dying have continued in a steady attrition. 16 people have been killed since then and the casualty figures over the past two and a half months are now estimated at over 120 dead and more than 14,600 wounded.”

Stourton made absolutely no effort to provide listeners with essential context on the topic of why those ‘protests’ took place and who organised and funded them. He likewise refrained from informing audiences that over 80% of those killed have been shown to have links to various Gaza based terror factions

Stourton: “For this programme we’ve been asking a question that used to make headlines and was once prominent in foreign ministerial in trays: is there a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Here’s a Palestinian perspective.”

Although unnamed, listeners then heard from Sari Nusseibeh.

Nusseibeh: “Each side has become more uncertain of the other. Each side has become less interested, less hopeful of a final or permanent solution with the other. So we have been left in some kind of limbo.”

Stourton: “Here’s the view of a veteran negotiator.”

Also unnamed, that negotiator is Martin Indyk.

Indyk: “Yeah, I think that it is a depressing situation and it didn’t have to be this way. And I do feel a sense of responsibility. Having been involved in the effort over 35 years the sense of failure weighs heavily and especially because in the process of trying to resolve it, a lot of people have died on both sides.”

With no Israeli view presented, Stourton then went on to mislead listeners by referring to “Israel’s frontiers before the Six-Day War”. Those “frontiers” were of course armistice lines which were specifically defined in the 1949 Armistice Agreement as not being borders.

Stourton: “A two-state solution to the conflict with a border drawn roughly along the lines of Israel’s frontiers before the Six-Day War in 1967 is still the starting point for most Middle East diplomacy and polls suggest it’s still the most widely supported solution among Israelis and Palestinians. But it now seems so remote that people on both sides have begun to talk as if it’s a goal that will never be reached.”

Stourton then went on to reveal why Radio 4 was broadcasting an overtly one-sided programme on what – given the state of the region as a whole – it ridiculously insists on describing as “the Middle East conundrum” and “Middle East diplomacy”.

Stourton: “And because Israel is – unlike the Palestinian Authority – a fully functioning state with military superiority, we’ll be focusing on whether its government has a long-term vision of what the future might look like.”

He continued:

Stourton: “I should say at the outset that we’ve had great difficulty in persuading those members of the coalition now in power who have a reputation for bold thinking on this subject to talk to us.”

The programme’s framing – which can be boiled down to ‘how a succession of Israeli prime ministers rejected the two-state solution and so failed to make peace’ – then came into view:   

Stourton: “One way to approach the subject is through the life and career of the current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and our story begins before Israel even existed, in the debates of early Zionists and the split between pragmatists like Israel’s founder David Ben Gurion and the so-called revisionist movement which counted Mr Netanyahu’s father among its supporters.”

Another unidentified voice – belonging to journalist Anshel Pfeffer – was then heard.

Pfeffer: “Well Professor Ben Zion Netanyahu believed in that very forceful, almost militaristic, way of bringing the Zionist programme to fruition; that the Jews shouldn’t compromise on any of their rights to the land of Israel, that there should be no weakness in any way shown towards the Arabs or towards international powers. Much less pragmatic approach than was being shown by the…by Ben Gurion’s Workers Party.”

Stourton: “Is it fair to say those ideas had a very profound impact on his son?”

Pfeffer: “No doubt about it.”

Stourton: “Anshel Pfeffer who’s just published a biography called ‘Bibi – The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu’. Mr Netanyahu first really claimed international attention at the event which raised the curtain on what became known as the peace process: the Madrid Conference in 1991. He was the prime minister’s spokesman and a real master of the sound-bite.”

Listeners then heard an archive recording:

Netanyahu: “We now have Israel that is ringed with a circle of talks. And we hope that it will replace the circle of guns that surrounds us: that this will bring peace.”

Stourton: “His boss, the prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, had – like Netanyahu senior – been a hard-liner in the days before Israel’s founding and the Americans, who sponsored the conference, had a tense time persuading him to come. Dennis Ross was a member of the American team and he doesn’t think Mr Shamir had accepted the idea of a two-state solution.”

Ross: “I think in Shamir’s case it was not so much he thought it was leading to a two-state solution. It’s just said it was leading to the unknown.”

Stourton: “Do you think he had a vision of where he wanted to end up?”

Ross: “He said that a couple of times to us that you know this is a process that’s beginning now and the issues – the real final status issues – will be dealt with after he was no longer there. I think his real approach was not driven by an objective of what he wanted as much as it was driven by a process that he hoped could be stretched out to the point where any risk that Israel might be running could be managed.”

Stourton: “The Madrid Conference did not in itself produce much movement but it was followed by the so-called Oslo Accords, negotiated in great secrecy in the Norwegian capital, which created a Palestinian Authority and gave the Palestinians a measure of autonomy. The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and a new Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, shook hands on the deal on the White House lawn in 1993.”

After a recording of the former US president Bill Clinton speaking at that event, Stourton introduced his next contributor.

Stourton: “But even then many Israeli leaders were reluctant to accept the idea of full statehood for the Palestinians. Yossi Beilin – now a prominent opposition figure in Israeli politics – was a key player in the Oslo negotiations.”

Yossi Beilin in fact retired from political life a decade ago, in 2008.

Beilin: “Only after the agreement with the PLO it became quite apparent that the two-state solution would be the solution but even then, until Rabin’s murder he never spoke about the full two-state solution. He spoke about a Palestinian entity which will be less of a state or something like that.”

Six minutes into the programme, listeners had by now heard three Israeli prime ministers described as opponents of the two-state solution. So would they hear portrayals of the views of Palestinian leaders of the same era on that topic?

Stourton: “In the Oslo Accords the PLO recognised the State of Israel and Israel recognised the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. Movement on the Israeli side was matched by movement among moderate Palestinians. Sari Nusseibeh is a leading Palestinian intellectual and was a prominent champion of the two-state solution.”

While there are those who would disagree with Stourton’s portrayal of Nusseibeh, notably Stourton did not ask him for the PLO leader’s views of the two-state solution at the time.

Nusseibeh: “Well it seemed to me at the time on the Israeli side there were enough Israelis who seemed to also be saying they wanted to end the occupation, return to the ’67 borders, be content with the state they have within those borders and they were basically beginning to force a recognition of the Palestinian right of self-determination. And it seemed at the time to me that this would do as a kind of fair solution. It’s not the best solution, but as a fair solution. And on the Palestinian side, especially in the occupied territories, people also seemed to be struggling for primarily for a life of freedom, of independence, of dignity, of self-rule. So on both counts it seemed to me that this would be a good settlement.”

Stourton: “Bibi [sic] Netanyahu however did not change his thinking. In 1993 – the year of that arresting handshake between Messrs Arafat and Rabin on the White House lawn – he published a book called ‘A Place Among the Nations: Israel and the World’ in which he argued for firm limits on the amount of autonomy the Palestinians should be given.”

Listeners then heard what is presumably a quote from that book (which was actually published five months before that White House lawn ceremony) which was – for some reason – read in an American accent.

“Under any conception of autonomy Israel should retain the powers and prerogatives of the sovereign including such matters as military defence, foreign affairs and control of the currency and foreign trade while the Arab population could manage many areas of daily life.”

Anshel Pfeffer then told listeners that the book “basically remains Netanyahu’s blueprint” and that in it “Netanyahu presents his version of Jewish history, his version of Jewish nationalism” and that he “pushes away any kind of Palestinian claim” and “denies the fact that there is such a thing as Palestinian nationalism in any historical sense. He treats it as being very much a manufactured notion of the mid-20th century”. Pfeffer went on to claim that the book presents  “Netanyahu’s plan for the future, for what kind of a peace solution can seriously bring peace to the Middle East and ensure Israel’s prosperity and success in the future”.

Stourton: And what does that look like in his book?”

Pfeffer: “Well it doesn’t look like the two-state solution if we have to be very honest. His solution is that Israel does not have to make any kind of concessions towards the Palestinians because Israel is in a much larger battle  for survival, not with the Palestinians but with the wider Arab world and with radical Islam and with Iran.”

By this time listeners were a third of way in to the programme and yet had not heard a single word about the terrorism that followed that White House lawn handshake in 1993 and the fact that the number of Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists in the five years after the Oslo Accords was higher than in the fifteen years before they were signed.

Describing Arafat as “the PLO leader” while failing to clarify that he was by that time also the president of the Palestinian Authority, Stourton then went on to present a debatable picture of the Camp David summit and to portray the second Intifada as something that just “began” rather than the pre-planned terror war that it actually was.

Stourton: “The high point of hopes for a two-state solution came in the summer of 2000 when Bill Clinton brought another Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, and the PLO leader Yasser Arafat together for 2 weeks of talks at Camp David [….]. They came tantalisingly close to a deal but they failed to get there. Two months later the second Intifada – or Palestinian uprising began. It was the beginning of the slide to today’s stalemate. Martin Indyk served two terms as the American ambassador to Israel.”

Indyk: “If we look for the tipping point it really goes back to trying to identify when the population on both sides decided that the other side had evil intent rather than benign intent. The outbreak of the Intifada convinced Israelis that giving up territory or promising to give up territory was only going to lead to more violence – and it was horrendous violence. On the other side I think the Palestinians became convinced that Oslo just brought them more settlements and more occupation. It didn’t actually lead to ending the occupation.”

Of course Indyk’s claim that Oslo “brought…more settlements” is inaccurate – as the BBC has itself reported in the past. Stourton then moved on to another Israeli prime minister.

Stourton: “In the aftermath of the Intifada Israel elected a prime minister with a reputation as the hardest of hard-liners: Ariel Sharon. He surprised everyone by deciding to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.”

Listeners heard an archive report from Orla Guerin which included the following:

Guerin “The night sky over Gaza suggests victory but on this historic night, remember this: there is no peace deal and no Palestinian state and Israel still controls the borders here.”

Stourton: “The logic behind his withdrawal plan – and there was talk of it being extended to the West Bank – was to create separate homes for Palestinians and Israelis not by negotiation but by unilateral Israeli action and on Israel’s terms. But that ran counter to the principle at the heart of all previous peace talks: the idea that Israel would give up land in exchange for peace.”

Indyk “Mahmoud Abbas…begged Sharon to negotiate an agreement for Israel’s withdrawal so that he would have commitments that he could impose – or at least try to impose – on the Palestinians, including on Hamas.”

Listeners were not informed that relevant agreements had already been signed – including the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip which laid out exactly the kinds of “commitments” Indyk claimed were lacking.  

Stourton: “Hamas, the radical Palestinian group formally dedicated to the destruction of Israel, won elections not long after the Israeli withdrawal and later secured its power in Gaza by force.”

Indyk: “But Sharon, you know, was insistent on doing a deal with George W Bush rather than with the Palestinian leadership so the withdrawal was without any understanding, any commitment on the Palestinian side, any arrangements. It was effectively pulling out and throwing the keys over the fence.”

Stourton: “So we see the impact of that still today, do we?”

Indyk: “Profoundly, profoundly because Israel withdrew, went through the incredible pain of uprooting the…the settlers there and what it got in return was rockets. Hamas’ rockets. And so that sent a message to Israelis that, you know, giving up territory doesn’t get you peace.”

In other words, BBC audiences heard Hamas terrorism – and conclusions subsequently drawn by the Israeli public – framed as having been caused by Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip.  Notably they did not hear any mention of foreign funding of Hamas.

By this time the programme was almost at its half-way point and BBC audiences had first and foremost heard how a succession of Israeli prime ministers failed to make peace. In the second part of this post we shall see whether or not any balance was introduced into the latter half of the discussion.

Weekend long read

1) While Adalah is not the BBC’s most frequently quoted and promoted political NGO, it does appear in BBC content from time to time. David Collier has taken a closer look at one of that NGO’s flagship projects.

“Adalah are an NGO in Israel that claims to promote human rights in Israel in general and the rights of the Arab citizens of Israel ‘in particular’.

Adalah created a database of ‘discriminatory laws’ that has been used as a central pillar for anti-Israel boycott activities (BDS). Adalah’s database is the primary source for one of the three aims of the boycott Israel movement.

These laws are referenced everywhere. In the UN, in every anti-Israel meeting, in many European governments. There is hardly an anti-Israel book that is published that does not reference the list of laws. The list is a pillar of the boycott Israel movement.

Just one problem: The list is little more than a scam.”

2) MEMRI documents some of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah PR campaign against the anticipated US administration peace initiative.

“Even before its terms have been publicized, the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan, known as “the Deal of the Century,” has encountered harsh opposition from the Palestinian Authority (PA), on the grounds that it does not promote peace but seeks to eliminate the Palestinian national identity and the Palestinian state and to topple the Palestinian leadership. Against this backdrop, PA elements have directed personal attacks at the U.S. officials promoting the deal. […]

Harsh criticism against the deal and its proponents was also voiced by Fatah, whose chairman is Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas. Recently the movement announced the launching of “a national campaign to thwart the Deal of the Century.””

3) At the INSS Gallia Lindenstrauss reviews “The Elections in Turkey: Strengthened Ultra-Nationalist Forces and the Possible Impact on Turkish Foreign Policy”.

“In Turkey’s June 24, 2018 elections, incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected for another term, and the ultra-nationalist parties grew stronger. This is significant first and foremost in the Kurdish context, since the nationalists can be expected to be among the main opponents of renewing the peace process with the Kurdish underground. This will also have extensive repercussions on Turkish foreign policy toward Syria and Iraq, and as such, on Turkey’s relations with the regional and global powers.”

4) At the Times of Israel Ari Ingel discusses “Israel, Gaza, and International Law”.

“Pro-Palestinian commentators and social media activists have been lambasting Israel over the course of the recent Gaza demonstrations for violating international law with proclamations of war crimes and human rights violations.

While a law degree apparently comes free with every twitter account, much of this talk is mere bluster with no foundation in the actual law itself, but rather, espoused with an intention to falsely vilify Israel and its leaders in the court of public opinion.”