Weekend long read

1) MEMRI has produced a report reviewing “statements by Palestinian officials threatening to sue Britain for the Balfour Declaration and urging it to apologize for it, as well as the articles in the Palestinian press on this issue and the popular campaign that has been launched to promote the lawsuit.”

“In comments to the website of the satellite television channel Al-Mayadeen on February 11, 2017, PA Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki said that, during a visit to London last year (on October 31-November 1, 2016) he had told his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, that the British government and all its institutions must avoid participating in any events related to the Balfour Declaration and that any celebrations of the declaration’s centenary would have a negative impact on Palestinian-British relations. He also demanded that Britain acknowledge its historic responsibility for the declaration, apologize to the Palestinian people, and issue a new declaration recognizing a Palestinian state.”

2) At the end of last month the JCPA held a conference marking 100 years since the Balfour Declaration. Videos of lectures given by speakers at the conference can be found here.

3) The ITIC has produced a profile of frequent BBC interviewee Husam Zomlot in light of his appointment to a new post.

“On March 8, 2017, Mahmoud Abbas appointed Dr. Husam Zomlot as chief of the PLO delegation to the United States, in effect representing Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA). He will replace Maen Erekat, who has held the post since 2009. Erekat will be appointed to represent the PA in London. Since May 2016 Husam Zomlot has been advisor for strategic affairs to Mahmoud Abbas.”

Related Articles:

Balfour Declaration

 

 

 

BBC News silence on PA terror rewards continues

As has been noted here before, the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists is a topic which is serially excluded from the view of BBC audiences.

That subject is obviously of interest to governments and tax payers alike in the many countries that donate aid to the Palestinian Authority – including of course the BBC’s funding British public. Familiarity with the issue is also key to understanding of both the eternal PA budget deficit and the background to Palestinian terrorism.  

The Palestinian National Fund (PNF) – which was established in 1964 as part of the PLO and is now controlled by the Palestinian Authority – was blacklisted by Israel’s Minister of Defence last week.

“Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, today (Thursday, 16 March 2017), pursuant to his authority under Article 3 of the 2016 Fight Against Terrorism Law, declared the “Palestinian National Fund” (hereinafter “the fund”) to be a terrorist organization. 

The decision to declare the fund a terrorist organization stems from its continuing and ongoing activity in providing massive support for elements responsible for committing severe acts of terrorism against Israel. 

The fund serves – inter alia – as a significant financial pipeline for tens of millions of shekels that are transferred on a monthly basis to security prisoners held in Israel for committing acts of terrorism and to members of their families. In effect, the longer the sentence, the greater the payments to the prisoner and his family. 

The fund also supports family members of terrorists who were wounded and killed while perpetrating acts of terrorism against Israel. 

The fund has a vital role in the financial support for Palestinian terrorist operatives imprisoned in Israel, and it is used as the most significant route for transferring funds. 

The fund is headed by Ramzi Elias Yousef Khouri, a senior PLO official who is close to senior Palestinian Authority leaders. 

As of today, all necessary actions will be taken in Israel and overseas in order to seize and confiscate property and assets designated for, or belonging to, the fund.”

The PNF is – to put it mildly – not the most transparently run body.

“The Palestinian National Fund was founded in 1964 by members of the PLO in order to serve as the body which will manage the Palestinian people’s funds. The person who headed the fund was unofficially considered the Palestinian finance minister. The fund’s sources of funding were defined as taxes collected from PLO members (about 5 percent of the salaries of PLO members in the Gulf), donations from businesspeople, donations from Arab and other states, from organizations, and more.

Over the years, tens of billions of dollars were transferred to the fund’s coffer (it is estimated that some $30 billion passed through the fund’s accounts by early 2000). The Arab states’ annual financial aid to the PLO reached some $300 million since the mid 1960s.

Over the years, the fund also received different grants in light of the organization’s political stance. After the occupation of Kuwait in 1990, for example, Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein gave the Palestinian fund a “gift” worth $150 million to thank the PLO for its support of his policy. This is only one example of many.

The Palestinian fund has not only maintained its status since the PA was established after the Oslo Agreements in 1993, but it seems it has also increased its influence. One could say that since the PA’s establishment, the Amman-based National Fund has turned into a sort of secret coffer of the two PA chairmen, Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. The control of the fund and the billions it manages have given the two leaders huge political power. […]

According to PLO regulations, the Palestinian National Fund should be run by a special council, and its chairman should be one of the members of the organization’s Executive Committee. In practice, however, the fund has not had a chairman for 15 years now, against regulations. About a decade ago, Abbas decided, as the PLO chairman, to appoint Ramzi Khoury, who served as Arafat’s bureau chief, as the fund’s CEO.

This means that Abbas basically controls the fund’s money, and that he knows of and approves the flow of funds to finance anti-Israel activity and propaganda.”

As readers may be aware, until a few years ago the monthly payments to convicted terrorists were made directly by the Palestinian Authority itself. However, in August 2014 changes were ostensibly made to the system.

“In 2014, the PA announced that in order to continue receiving more than a billion dollars in financial support annually, it was acceding to US and European donor countries’ demands that the PA stop paying salaries to terrorist prisoners. The PA claimed the money for prisoners salaries would no longer be paid by the PA but instead by the PLO.”

Nevertheless, as Palestinian Media Watch has documented:

“In 2015, after the PA had assured Western donors it was no longer paying the salaries, and after it had closed the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs, it suddenly transferred more than double what it had transferred to the PLO in previous years. The additional amount transferred by the PA to the PLO in 2015 was almost identical to the budget the PA Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs used to have. This extra money the PLO received from the PA in 2015 matches the amount the PLO now needed to pay the salaries of terrorist prisoners.
The payments may be made by the PLO, but the money is still PA money.”

The role of the newly blacklisted Palestinian National Fund is explained as follows by PMW:

“…PMW has uncovered PA Ministry of Finance documents that indicate a money trail, showing the transfer of money from the PA to the Palestinian National Fund (PNF), the body that funds the PLO, in the amount needed to pay the salaries to terrorist prisoners […]

In 2015, after the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs was closed, the PA raised its annual transfer to the PLO via the Palestinian National Fund by 481 million shekels ($128 million):

2014 transfer – 294 million shekels

2015 transfer – 775 million shekels    

The additional 481 million shekels the PLO received from the PA in 2015 was the amount it needed to fund the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, undertaking the responsibilities of the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs. The transfer of 481 million is virtually identical to the budget of the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs in 2014 (442 million), plus 10% yearly growth due to rising prisoners salaries. According to PA law, the salaries of terrorist prisoners rise the longer they are in prison.

This route – money transfers from the PA to the PNF and then to the PLO – is the way the PA is transferring money to the PLO in order to continue funding salaries to terrorist prisoners, and to keep their payments hidden from donor countries.”

If a president (particularly one with an expired mandate) in any other location in the world had control over a shadowy fund that, among other things, facilitated the provision of rewards – and incentives – for terrorism, one can be pretty sure that the BBC’s journalistic curiosity would be piqued. However in the case of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, the BBC remains typically dumb.

Related Articles:

No BBC reporting of Abbas-PFLP row

PA’s salaries for terrorists in the news again – but not at the BBC

 

 

BBC Complaints: inaccurate portrayal of Palestinian leadership is not a ‘significant issue’

Last month we noted that an insert titled “What is the two-state solution?” had appeared in a number of BBC News website articles published since late December 2016. The same insert continues to appear in BBC content – most recently just last week.

BBC Watch submitted a complaint on the grounds that the insert is inaccurate and misleading to audiences because:

a) it does not inform readers that an essential part of the two-state solution is the concept (repeatedly endorsed by the Quartet) of ‘two states for two peoples’ – a definition which would require Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state – and that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have repeatedly refused to do so.

b) the claim that the two-state solution is the “declared goal” of Palestinian leaders inaccurately suggests to readers that Palestinian leadership is one, uniform entity. It fails to inform readers that Hamas and additional Palestinian factions do not regard the two-state solution as their “goal” and in fact reject the concept.

The response received from BBC Complaints includes the following:

“The insert entitled “What is the two-state solution?” is meant to be an abbreviated guide to the concept in its broadest sense.  For reasons of space, it is not feasible to offer a more forensic examination of what is quite a complex issue, as you clearly understand.

It could be argued, for instance, that Hamas do not qualify as leaders on the same footing as the internationally recognised PA – it depends on how “leaders” is defined. The casual reader is likely to understand “leaders” in this context as those parties involved in the diplomatic process, of which Hamas is not one.

While Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that a pre-requisite for any final peace settlement is a Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, something the PA resists, it does not mean that a “two-state solution” in the general sense is not the declared goal of both sides. It is the detail and character of the two states which is up for discussion if/when peace talks resume.”

BBC Watch submitted a follow-up complaint, clarifying that while Hamas is indeed not part of the “diplomatic process” as it is not part of the Palestinian Authority or the PLO, it did receive more votes than any other party in the 2006 PLC election and hence is clearly a ‘leader’ as far as Palestinian public opinion is concerned. We also clarified that the requirement to recognise Israel as the Jewish state as part of the concept of two states for two peoples is not confined to the Israeli prime minister.

The response received reads:

“We appreciate that you felt strongly enough to write to us again. We have noted your points and are sorry to learn you were not satisfied with our earlier response. 

We are sorry to tell you that we have nothing to add to our previous reply. We do not believe your complaint has raised a significant issue of general importance that might justify further investigation. We will not therefore correspond further in response to additional points, or further comments or questions, made about this issue or our responses to it.”

As we see, the BBC does not think that leading audiences to believe that there is one, united Palestinian leadership which regards the two-state solution as its “goal” (while airbrushing from view a proscribed terror organisation that aims to wipe Israel off the map) is a “significant issue” which is liable to hamper understanding of this particular ‘international issue‘. 

 

BBC News reinforces selected ‘peace process’ narratives yet again

On March 10th an article titled “Trump Middle East: Palestinian leader invited to White House” was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. The subject matter of that four hundred and four word-long report is ostensibly a ten-minute phone call between the presidents of the US and the Palestinian Authority which took place that day. However, much of the article was used to reinforce narratives already evident in BBC content for some time.

1) Readers were told that:

“Mr Trump hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February.

At that meeting, Mr Trump dropped a long-standing US commitment to a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

As has been noted here before, the day after the Israeli prime minister’s visit to the White House, the BBC published an article in which a member of the US administration clarified its stance:

“The US ambassador to the UN has said her country “absolutely” supports the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

But Nikki Haley also said the Trump administration was “thinking outside the box as well”, suggesting it was open to other possible solutions.”

Despite having published that report, the BBC News website nevertheless continues to promote the narrative of a ‘major policy shift’ concerning the two-state solution on the part of the US administration.

2) The article includes an insert titled “What is the two-state solution?” that has already been seen in several previous reports.

That insert once again promotes the false narrative according to which the two-state solution is the “declared goal” of Palestinian leaders while erasing from audience view the fact that Hamas and additional Palestinian factions reject the two-state solution outright and failing to inform BBC audiences  of the repeated refusal of Palestinian Authority leaders to recognise Israel as the Jewish state: a necessary condition for fulfilment of the concept of “two states for two peoples”. 

3) The article tells readers that:

“There have been no substantive peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians since US-mediated negotiations broke down in April 2014.”

The BBC has of course been promoting the narrative that those talks simply “broke down” or “collapsed” for a long time but serially refrains from informing its audiences of the decisions made by the Palestinian Authority which led to the end of that round of negotiations.

4) Readers of this article also found more BBC amplification of the PA’s narrative concerning the proposed relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem:

“The US Senate on Thursday approved Mr Trump’s controversial nominee for ambassador to Israel.

David Friedman favours relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem, a highly inflammatory proposal because both Israel and the Palestinians lay claim to the city as their capital.” [emphasis added]

As has been noted here before, BBC audiences have not heard any alternative view of that proposal or any explanation as to why Palestinians should object to the relocation of the US embassy to an area of Jerusalem to which – according to the corporation’s own presentation of the issue – the PA does not lay claim.

Whether or not a meeting between Abbas and Trump will indeed “rekindle peace talks” as suggested in this report remains to be seen but what is already apparent is the BBC’s chosen framing of that topic – as indicated by the repeated promotion of these unwavering and unquestioned narratives in report after report.

Related Articles:

More narrative driven BBC portrayal of the ‘peace process’

BBC News and the US ‘major policy shift’ that wasn’t

BBC News website’s explanation of the two-state solution falls short

BBC continues to push its monochrome US embassy story

 

 

BBC News report whitewashes Arafat’s terrorism

On March 6th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel Arafat street sign dropped after Netanyahu anger“.

The story is summarised in the article’s opening paragraphs:

“An Israeli Arab town has dropped the name of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from one of its streets after Israel’s prime minister objected.

The village of Jatt, in the north of the country, removed the sign, officials said.

On Saturday [sic – actually Sunday] Benjamin Netanyahu said streets in Israel could not be “named after murderers of Israelis and Jews”.”

Readers were not informed that the local council had not obtained the required approval from the Ministry of the Interior for the street name.

The BBC’s article goes on:

“Many Palestinians see Arafat as an icon in their fight for a state but many Israelis view him as a terrorist.”

Yet again we see that the BBC promotes the ‘one man’s terrorist’ cliché, failing to distinguish between means and ends. As has been noted here on previous occasions, in 2009 the philosopher William Vallicella wrote:

“Suppose a Palestinian Arab jihadi straps on an explosive belt and detonates himself in a Tel Aviv pizza parlor. He is objectively a terrorist: he kills and maims noncombatants in furtherance of a political agenda which includes freedom from Israeli occupation. The fact that he is a freedom fighter does not make him any less a terrorist. Freedom is his end, but terror is his means. It is nonsense to say that he is a terrorist to Israelis and their supporters and a freedom fighter to Palestinians and their supporters. He is objectively both. It is not a matter of ‘perception’ or point of view or which side one is on.”

By promoting the notion that Arafat can be seen either as a terrorist or as “an icon”, the BBC continues to propagate a misleading, inaccurate and inherently flawed approach to the subject of terrorism.  

Later on in the article readers are told that:

“Arafat led the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) for 35 years. The movement was sworn to Israel’s destruction and carried out many deadly attacks.

Arafat later renounced violence and won the Nobel peace prize jointly with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in 1994 for agreeing Israel-Palestinian peace accords.

However many Israelis held him responsible for attacks by Palestinian militants from areas under his control during the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) which began in 2000.” [emphasis added]

With Arafat’s planning and financing of the second Intifada being a topic long avoided by the BBC (and one which, not coincidentally, contradicts the corporation’s chosen narrative on the subject), it is hardly surprising to see it framed as an “Israel says” issue. However, not only Israelis know that Arafat instigated the violence: numerous Palestinian figures – including Arafat’s wife – have also said the same.

“Yasser Arafat had made a decision to launch the Intifada. Immediately after the failure of the Camp David [negotiations], I met him in Paris upon his return, in July 2001 [sic]. Camp David has failed, and he said to me: “You should remain in Paris.” I asked him why, and he said: “Because I am going to start an Intifada. They want me to betray the Palestinian cause. They want me to give up on our principles, and I will not do so.” [Suha Arafat, Dubai TV, December 2012]

“He [Arafat] said: “You have to leave Palestine, because I want to carry out an Intifada, and I’m not prepared to shield myself behind my wife and little girl.” Everyone said: “Suha abandoned him,” but I didn’t abandon him. He ordered me to leave him because he had already decided to carry out an Intifada after the Oslo Accords and after the failure of Camp David [July 2000].”” [Suha Arafat, PA TV, November 2011]

“[Arafat] saw that repeating the first Intifada in new forms, would bring the necessary popular, international, and Arab pressure upon Israel, because it was already impossible to continue denying our right in Jerusalem and the right of the refugees, which are the two main topics [of conflict].” [Nabil Shaath, PA TV, November 2011]

“Whoever thinks that the Intifada started because of the hated Sharon’s visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque is mistaken. That was only the straw breaking the Palestinian people’s patience. This Intifada was already planned since [Arafat] the President returned from the recent talks at Camp David [July 2000].” [Imad Faluji, December 2000]

Nevertheless, the BBC continues its long-standing practice of whitewashing terrorism from the record of Yasser Arafat.   

Challenged and unchallenged claims in a BBC ‘Hardtalk’ interview – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the claims and topics on which presenter Stephen Sackur chose to challenge Fatah’s Husam Zomlot during a ‘Hardtalk’ interview broadcast on BBC World News on March 2nd. In this post we will look at the claims and statements that Sackur chose to let stand by failing to use his role as interviewer to intervene and clarify issues to BBC audiences.

For example, Sackur made no effort to challenge Zomlot’s inaccurate and misleading portrayal of the Oslo Accords, failing to point out that they do not include the stipulation that Israel should withdraw from “all the territories” which came under its control following the Six Day War and that they do stipulate that the issue of borders is to be determined in final status negotiations. Neither did Sackur bother to remind viewers that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005 or to clarify that the territory is not ‘besieged’. Likewise, he refrained from clarifying that the 1949 Armistice lines are not borders and that definition of the two-state solution as meaning “a State of Palestine on the 1967 borders” is merely the PLO’s interpretation of the term.

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

Zomlot: “…you know I also witnessed the Oslo process as a young man, you know, witnessed the demise of the implementation of the peace process. I think if you are talking about the process itself, yes, it has been discredited. All along since 1997 we should have had a state. According to the Oslo Accords Israel should have withdrawn from all the territories it occupied in 1967 and in fact what happened after was the deepening of the occupation and the spread of colonial settlements and the besiegement [sic] of the people in Gaza and what have you and therefore, yes; you’re right – the process has failed miserably to deliver the outcome. And to many people it was a process actually designed to prevent the outcome; a process that was going in the opposite direction. But the hope and the aspiration and the goal of two states – of a State of Palestine on the 1967 borders – the hope for two states…”

Zomlot’s whitewashed and misleading portrayal of the PLO charter went unchallenged by Sackur with no effort made to clarify that Jews in Zomlot’s “egalitarian” Palestinian state only include those “who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion”.

Zomlot: “The PLO official…the Palestine Liberation Organisation official platform until 1988 was a one democratic state for all its citizens in the historic land of Palestine for Muslims, Christians and Jews but that platform had to be compromised simply because there was a condition by the international community – in fact by Reagan, the Reagan administration – on the PLO that we must abandon our dream of one democratic, egalitarian state, diverse and respecting the rule of law for all of its citizens, to a two-state solution.”

Sackur failed to challenge the falsehood promoted by Zomlot according to which the current economic situation in the PA and Hamas controlled areas is “unprecedented” and refrained from clarifying that GDP is currently significantly higher than was the case during the second Intifada and in 2006. Neither did Sackur challenge Zomlot’s bizarre claim of a Palestinian population of 12.7 million or the falsehood that Palestinians are ‘coerced’ into working in Israel.

Zomlot: “The socio-economic situation in the West Bank and Gaza is simply unprecedented in terms of how deteriorated it has been. All economic indicators show some sort of an economic – what’s the word? – slaughter-house, actually. Let me give you some numbers very, very quickly about the economic disparity because of us having to work in Israel – not, by the way, by choice but by coercion. You know our population is around 12.7 million. We have 95% literacy and we have 70% under age of 29. This is a very youthful, very educated society. And we have very wealthy natural resources yet GDP – our GDP – I’m talking about 2015 – just a quick number – is $12 billion compared to $305 billion in Israel. Our per capita is 2,800 compared to 36,000 in Israel. Our unemployment rate…”

Sackur failed to inform viewers that Zomlot’s claims that the Israeli government seeks “full annexation of the West Bank” and that such a move is ongoing “on a daily basis” are false.

Zomlot: “…in our situation, given the calamity of the Israeli agenda now – the current government – and it’s very clear: they want full annexation of the West Bank. This is not what I’m saying; this is what they’re saying and doing on a daily basis. You’ve just quoted some of their bills passed in the Knesset and we are witnessing on a daily basis here in the West Bank and Jerusalem of course – East Jerusalem. Now if this is their agenda…by the way part of them pushing Gaza out of the equation so their annexationist agenda can prevail.”

Zomlot’s denial of Jerusalem as the capital – and seat of government – of Israel, his ridiculous claim concerning water consumption and his use of ‘apartheid’ and ‘colonisation’ tropes went unremarked by Sackur.

Zomlot: “Steve, the whole situation here is that of a system of entitlement. These people – some people in Tel Aviv right now – the government, the Right-wing extreme government, wants to keep a system whereby there is a group that are privileged as per these numbers. It’s our own water that they consume, most of it. Some groups that are privileged and others that are disprivileged [sic] and discriminated whether by means of occupation or by means of colonisation or by means of apartheid.”

Even the ridiculous claim that Palestinians are “treated as slaves” and use of the ‘chosen people’ trope produced no reaction from the BBC interviewer.

Zomlot: “Does this mean ending Israel’s occupation and establishing a State of Palestine? We are happy to proceed with you as partners. But if this means we will continue to be treated as slaves in our own land and we continue to put up against some people who argue that God is estate agent and God chose some people at the expense of others.”

In addition, on several occasions Sackur himself failed to adhere to the BBC’s own style on the use of the term ‘Palestine’ which states “in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank” – for example:

Sackur: “I’m going to stop you because you’re raising so many different points, all of which are important, about internal politics in Palestine.

As we see, while Sackur challenged Zomlot repeatedly and rigorously on claims concerning internal Palestinian affairs during this interview, the same standard was not applied when Zomlot was speaking about other issues. The result of that discrepancy is that Zomlot was allowed him a free hand to mislead BBC audiences by propagating blatant falsehoods, delegitimising tropes and inaccurate anti-Israel propaganda.

 

 

Challenged and unchallenged claims in a BBC ‘Hardtalk’ interview – part one

The March 2nd edition of the BBC World News programme ‘Hardtalk‘ aired an interview with Fatah’s Husam Zomlot which was billed as follows:

“Stephen Sackur speaks to Husam Zomlot, a senior adviser to the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Does the Trump era signal the end for the Palestinian dream of statehood?”

The programme – also broadcast on the BBC News Channel – is available to UK-based viewers here and a clip from the interview was promoted on the BBC News website.

Presenter Stephen Sackur introduced the interview as follows, promoting the BBC’s now well established narrative of a ‘shift’ in US policy regarding the two-state solution.

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

Sackur: “For years the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been stuck, condemned to repeat itself year in, year out but now something has changed. The two protagonists remain deaf to each other’s demands but there is a new US president who seems to care little for Washington’s long-established quest for a two-state solution. So what does that mean? Well my guest is Husam Zomlot, advisor to the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Does the Trump ers signal the end for the Palestinian dream of statehood?”

A significant proportion of the interview related to the Palestinian Authority’s relationship with the new US administration and additional topics included internal Palestinian politics and economy. While some of Zomlot’s claims and statements were challenged – at times vigorously – by Sackur, others were not challenged at all.

Part one of this post will look at the subjects on which Sackur did chose to use his role as interviewer in order to clarify points to BBC audiences and part two will examine the claims and issues on which he refrained from challenging Zomlot.

When Zomlot claimed a “national consensus” regarding the two-state solution, Sackur intervened to clarify to audiences that the claim is inaccurate, although he did not similarly challenge the myth of Israel being on ‘Palestinian land’ or point out that – crucially to the issue under discussion – the PA and Fatah refuse to recognise Israel as the Jewish state.

Zomlot: “And, you know, it took us so many years to get to that national equilibrium here in Palestine; to establish a national consensus on the two-state solution and on accepting, recognising Israel on 78% of our land. […]

Sackur: “…you claim you’ve reached a consensus, which of course you haven’t because that’s why Gaza and the West Bank are so deeply divided politically so we’ll get to that later.”

Sackur challenged Zomlot repeatedly and vigorously with regard to his claims of communication with the new US administration.

Sackur: “That must worry you; that the Trump team do not seem to be interested in talking to you Palestinians.”

Sackur: “Hang on, hang on ‘cos this is important. Hang on, this is important. You’re telling me oh yes, don’t worry; we’ve got the contact. Look, the truth is Binyamin Netanyahu has already had a very cosy meeting with Donald Trump at the White House. Just tell me; what’s the extent of the direct, personal contact between Mahmoud Abbas and Donald Trump?”

Sackur: “Yeah but I asked you a direct question. What’s the direct answer? What’s the direct answer?”

Sackur: “All I can say is you do seem to me to be a wild optimist ‘cos you seem to think that, you know, the Americans are in listening mode and they’re waiting to talk to you.”

Zomlot was challenged extensively on the topic of security co-operation (as laid out in the Oslo Accords) between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, although his false claim that the PLO represents “all Palestinians” was not.

Sackur: “Your boss Mahmoud Abbas said many weeks ago, he said that if Israel pushes ahead with this legislation to legalise settlements built on private Palestinian land, then he would cut security co-operation with Israel. Well of course that bill has now passed through the Knesset but as far as I can see it, Mahmoud Abbas has no intention of making good on that threat. Or am I missing something?”

Zomlot: “No you are missing something because that decision was made and it was made even by the PLO central council and now it’s been approved by this very legitimate sort of parliament for all Palestinians, [it’s] for the executive branch to decide on the timing. Remember, Steve, the issue of security is not just an Israeli demand; it’s not just an Israeli interest. It’s also a Palestinian interest and we don’t want to see a situation here where we…we have groups and agencies from all over the region – and you know what is happening around us, just 300 kilometers all around – and we want to make sure that we deliver such a policy on the right time.”

Sackur: “Well that’s the point, isn’t it? If I may – forgive the interruption – but if I may tease out what you seem to have just said to me, your priority is more in keeping a lid on Hamas in the West Bank than it is in ending security co-operation with Israel.”

Zomlot: “That’s not what I said. No, no. That’s not…we have no lid on Hamas whatsoever. Hamas is in Gaza and has staged a coup d’etat and it’s in full control of Gaza. No that’s not what I said. What I said is that we…”

Sackur: “No but it’s the West Bank we’re talking about. You need the Israeli security co-operation in the West Bank to help you keep yourselves – Fatah – on the top in the West Bank. Israel is your ally in that.”

Sackur went on to challenge Zomlot on the topic of one aspect of the PA economy.

Sackur: “I want to talk economy just briefly if I may. You say yes, we are going to end security and economic co-operation with Israel. I would put it to you; you can’t afford to. First of all you need the Israelis to hand over the customs and the border revenues that come to you through the Israelis and if you lose that, you’re in even worse economic circumstances than you’re in right now. And also the tens of thousands of Palestinians who either work inside Israel – on the other side of the green line – or, you know, frankly, let’s be honest, thousands of Palestinians work on building sites and construction building the very Jewish settlements that you say are the chief obstacle to peace. If you stop all those people doing those jobs, you economy’s going to fall apart.”

Zomlot was also challenged on a topic much neglected by the BBC: internal Palestinian politics.

Sackur: “Why is it that President Mahmoud Abbas has so little credibility? Palestinian opinion polls show that the majority of Palestinians want him gone. He hasn’t won an election for – what is it? – at least a decade. His mandate has run out. Most Palestinians see the Palestinian Authority as corrupt. You are doing yourselves no favours.”

After Zomlot cited in his reply the rescheduled municipal elections as “a pillar of our democratic process” – without either he or Sackur informing viewers that they will not be held in the Gaza Strip – and described the PA as “one of the very few nations in this region that really do adhere to the democratic processes”, Sackur interrupted:

Sackur: “When your mandate lasts four years… when your mandate lasts four years and it was achieved thirteen years ago, you don’t have any legitimacy anymore.”

Zomlot went on to give a bizarre interpretation of democracy which English-speaking BBC audiences would of course have had difficulty following given that the corporation chose not to report on the 7th Fatah party congress.

Zomlot: “Allow me…no, we do have legitimacy because President Abbas is the president of the PLO – of the Palestine Liberation Organisation – which is much, much higher even than the PA. The PA was only established to fulfil our responsibilities under Oslo which Israel has failed miserably. He does have the national legitimacy and he was elected. […] In the end he was voted by Fatah only two months ago in such a democratic process.”

Sackur: “Hang on, hang on, just a moment. Hang on, hang on. You’ve just said something outrageous. You had a chance to answer.”

Sackur raised another topic serially under-reported by the BBC.

Sackur: “That might be a bit more convincing to the outside world if Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank didn’t keep locking up opponents, didn’t keep depriving people like Mohammed Dahlan who is an opponent within the PLO [sic] of…[…] You know Dahlan and his people say that it’s time for new leadership, new leadership and you guys refuse to countenance new leadership in your own organisation.”

He did not however react when Zomlot told him that internal Palestinian politics are “even not for the BBC to discuss” – although that approach from a senior Fatah and PA official does perhaps go some way towards explaining why BBC correspondents in the region serially avoid reporting on internal Palestinian affairs.

 

BBC waives chance to inform on Fatah Facebook incitement

Shortly after a surge in terror attacks against Israelis began in the autumn of 2015, the BBC News website produced a backgrounder titled “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?”. As was noted here at the time, the backgrounder failed to provide audiences with the full range of information necessary for understanding of the role played by social media in spreading incitement.backgrounder

“The question posed in its headline is addressed in a relatively small section of the report (fewer than 200 words) which actually does little to inform readers of the scale and significance of the role of incitement spread via social media in fueling the current wave of terror, of the kind of content appearing on such platforms or of the use of social media by official Palestinian groups other than Hamas – including Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.” 

Neither did the backgrounder (or any other BBC report) inform audiences that both traditional and social media had also been used to promote incitement and glorification of terrorism long before that particular wave of violence began.

Since then, the BBC has made no further effort to provide its audiences with a realistic picture of incitement and glorification of terrorism by official Palestinian sources including the PA and Fatah, even when reporting on attempts to tackle such incitement. One BBC World Service radio programme even went so far as to tell listeners:

“And this is really the problem: narrative. With two completely opposing views on events, what Israelis see as inciting violence, the Palestinians see as telling the truth and vice versa.”

It therefore came as no surprise to see that the BBC did not bother to report the story of the recent closure of the official Fatah Facebook account.

“Facebook on Monday closed the official page of the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party amid a crackdown by the social media giant on Palestinian incitement.

In a statement on its Twitter account, Fatah, which is headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, claimed that Facebook closed the account after it posted a historical picture of former Fatah leader Yasser Arafat holding a rifle, standing alongside Fatah leader Mahmoud al-Aloul.

The page, which had garnered over 70,000 likes, routinely posted material that glorified Palestinian terrorism and martyrdom. […]

Munir al-Jaghoub, who heads Fatah’s Information Department in the Office of Mobilization and Organization, wrote on his personal Facebook page that this was actually the second time the social media giant had closed Fatah’s account, but he did not specify when the first time was.”

The closure did not however last long:

“Three days ago, Facebook shut down Fatah’s terror promoting account. The Palestinian Authority protested the closure as evidence of unfair collaboration between Israel and Facebook against the Palestinians. Yesterday, Facebook reinstated the account, without removing any of the terror promoting material that is regularly posted on the page by Fatah. In 2016 alone, Palestinian Media Watch documented over 130 posts glorifying individual terrorist murderers and terror attacks, and posts encouraging violence and terror.”

Yet again the BBC has passed up an opportunity to inform its audiences on the gravely under-reported issue of the dissemination of incitement to violence and glorification of terrorism by official Palestinian bodies.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting on social media incitement in Europe and Israel

BBC News ignores the story of the new Fatah vice-chair

 

Weekend long read

1) BBC Watch has often documented the fact that when reporting on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, the BBC fails to inform its audiences what that campaign aims to achieve. In August 2015, we also learned that the BBC considers the provision of that obviously crucial context “not our role“. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has produced an essay and a very useful video explaining what lies beneath the BDS campaign.

2) We have in the past noted on these pages that the BBC’s standard portrayal of the 2013/14 talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority – “came to an end amid acrimony in April 2014” – fails to provide its audience with an accurate and adequate view of events at the time and indeed impairs understanding. At ‘The American Interest’, one of those who took part in that round of negotiations, Michael Herzog, gives his account of what happened.Weekend Read

“But today feels somewhat different. To break the logjam, Israel suggests transferring to the PA the responsibility for planning and zoning in Palestinian-populated parts of Area C in the West Bank that are adjacent to Palestinian cities. The new proposal seems to capture the Palestinian negotiator’s attention. “We may be in business,” Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat signals, careful as always to remain non-committal. As we are about to adjourn, he asks to meet tomorrow to continue our discussions. The clock is ticking. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (whom we all refer to by his familiar moniker, Abu Mazen) has already called for a formal leadership meeting in Ramallah that coming Saturday to decide the fate of negotiations. Yet, for the first time in weeks, we feel a sense of cautious optimism—a feeling shared by our American counterparts.

The events of the next day would shatter these nascent hopes. Gathering at the Prime Minister’s office to prepare for the crucial meeting with our counterparts, we (and separately, our American colleagues) are surprised to watch the signing ceremony of a reconciliation deal between Abu Mazen’s Fatah movement and the Islamist Hamas in Gaza. On the Israeli side, there is a volley of questions. Abu Mazen is well aware of Israeli and U.S. sensitivities regarding Hamas—which is strongly opposed to peace and the recognition of Israel, and designated by the U.S. government and the European Union as a terror organization—so why did he not at least alert us to the imminent deal? Why would he sign it the day after he seemed to promise a meeting with us and just a few days ahead of the nine-month deadline? Is he no longer interested in extending negotiations?”

3) Back in 2013 we noted that restrictions on foreign journalists introduced by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Information and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Journalist’s Syndicate (PJS) had not been reported by the BBC. Last year we noted the introduction of further restrictions and the fact that one of the instigators – the chair of the PJS, Nasser Abu Baker – concurrently works for AFP. Abu Baker was recently in the news again and CAMERA’s Tamar Sternthal has the whole story.abu-baker  

“Following an exclusive exposé by CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) in early December about the inherent conflict of interest posed by Abu Baker’s participation in the Seventh Fatah Congress and his failed election bid to join the Fatah Revolutionary Council, the influential Agence France-Presse last month slapped him with a week’s suspension and withheld his salary. Participation by journalists in political events, especially those they are covering, is a serious violation of Agence France-Presse’s commitment to “rigorous neutrality” and its pledge that it “is independent of the French government and all other economic or political interests.”

Enter the International Federation of Journalists, which suspended its stated commitments to truth and opposition to discrimination with its Febrary 2 statement about Agence France-Presse’s sanctions against Abu Baker.”

The UK’s National Union of Journalists is a member of the International Federation of Journalists. The NUJ is the second largest union within the BBC with around 4,000 members. 

BBC News ignores the story of the new Fatah vice-chair

As readers may recall, in October 2016 the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell produced an article on the topic of succession within the Palestinian Authority which was notable for its lack of information concerning internal Fatah rivalries.knell-abbas-art-main

“Knell’s staid portrayal of the issue of who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas in his role as president of the Palestinian Authority (as well as chair of the PLO and head of the Fatah party) is most notable for what is absent from her framing of the story. Given that BBC audiences suffer from a chronic lack of information concerning internal Palestinian affairs, it is of course highly unlikely that they would be able to read between Knell’s lines and fill in the blanks for themselves.”

Since the appearance of that article, the BBC has failed to produce any follow-up English language reporting on subsequent related events – including violent clashes between supporters of Abbas and Dahlan, Abbas’ unanimous re-election as head of the Fatah party or the seventh Fatah party congress.

In her October report Knell named several potential successors to Abbas.

“For Palestinians, the most popular of the [Fatah Central] committee’s 20 members is Marwan Barghouti, who led Fatah’s Tanzim militant group during the last uprising against the occupation, or intifada.

Although he is in jail in Israel, serving five life terms for involvement in murdering Israelis, he remains influential and has led efforts to end divisions with Hamas.”

She also mentioned “[t]hree other potentially important players”: Mohammed Dahlan, Jibril Rajoub and Majed Faraj.

The fact that the BBC chose not to cover the seventh Fatah party congress in December means that audiences remain unaware of the fact that Barghouti received the most votes in the election to the Central Council of the faction which dominates the Palestinian Authority as well as the PLO (the body supposed to conduct negotiations with Israel) and that the second most popular candidate was Jibril Rajoub.

In mid-February the Fatah central committee elected a new vice-chairman and secretary-general to one-year terms.

“Former Nablus governor Mahmoud al-Aloul was appointed as the first ever vice president of the ruling Palestinian Fatah movement Wednesday night, marking him as a possible candidate to succeed Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian Authority president.

Aloul, 67, appointed by the Fatah Central Committee, is a close confidant of the 82-year-old Abbas. He is considered popular within the party, and was a long-time leader of Fatah’s armed wing before following the group’s leadership from Tunis to the West Bank in 1995 in the wake of the Oslo Accords. […]

Another possible successor to Abbas to emerge Wednesday night was the head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, who was appointed secretary general of the 18-member Fatah Central Committee. […]

Previously, the secretary general and vice president of the Fatah central committee was one position, but it was decided to split it into two. Palestinian commentators assessed that Rajoub may have cut a deal with Aloul to split the position.

The appointments are due to be reviewed in a year.”

Analysts viewed the appointments as a blow to the possibility of Marwan Barghouti succeeding Mahmoud Abbas:

“Though Barghouti won the most votes during the Seventh Fatah Congress in December, the decision not to appoint him to any role Wednesday night is seen as an attempt to distance him from holding any office that would put him in line to succeed Abbas.

Some in Barghouti’s circle expressed concern in recent days that the Fatah central committee would deny him an appointment, according to anonymous statements given to Arab media.

Currently, Barghouti’s future in Fatah is unclear. According to his close associates, Barghouti agreed to participate in the Seventh Fatah Congress only after Abbas promised him the deputy position.”

The Jerusalem Post adds:

“Other important portfolios were also distributed to various committee members with the noticeable exception of Marwan Barghouti. Many in the party had expected the longtime Fatah leader to receive some form of recognition, and possibly the vice chairmanship.”

Although the appointment of Mahmoud al-Aloul does not qualify him as Abbas’ successor, it does introduce a new name to the list of possibilities.

“Grant Rumley, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the [Jerusalem] Post that while Aloul’s election may not be a game changer in terms of succession, it does introduce a new contender.

“By virtue of his new position as No. 2 in Fatah, Aloul cannot be ignored or discounted in the race to replace Abbas,” Rumley said.

After Aloul completes his one-year term as vice chairman, the central committee will either extend Aloul’s term or vote for a new vice chairman.”

However, with the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s chronic under-reporting of Palestinian affairs continuing, audiences remain in the dark with regard to these developments and their possible implications. The fact that Fatah dominates the PLO and the foreign donor funded Palestinian Authority means that its internal politics clearly have significant effect on what the BBC terms “the Middle East peace process”. BBC audiences, however, continue to be deprived of the information which would enhance their understanding of that particular “international issue.  

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell omits back stories in portrayal of PA succession

BBC News continues to under-report internal Palestinian politics

Abbas’ Fatah reelection ignored by the BBC – in English

BBC News passes up coverage of recent Fatah congress

BBC News silent on Abbas’ rejection of Jewish state