No BBC follow up on Palestinian police LGBTQ group ban story

Back in August we noted that the BBC had devoted two minutes of domestic radio airtime to a story concerning a Palestinian Authority ban on the activities of a LGBTQ group.

Newsreader: “Gay rights activists in the West Bank have been threatened online after the Palestinian police announced a ban on their campaigns and meetings and called for help to arrest them. The prohibition of the main local LGBTQ group was announced despite the Palestinian Authority having signed up to various international human rights treaties. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

Knell: “In a statement posted on Facebook, a police spokesman described the actions of the LGBTQ group al Qaws – or rainbow – as a blow to the ideals and values of Palestinian society and against the monotheistic religions. Same sex relations aren’t against the law in the West Bank but homosexuality remains largely taboo, as it is across the Arab world. Those involved with the group have been threatened with arrest, accused of sedition after a recent event in the West Bank. In response to the statement announcing the ban – which has now been deleted from Facebook – members of the Palestinian public posted angry messages. ‘Arrest them and burn them all’ read one.”

However Palestinian Media Watch reports that, despite the deletion of the police spokesman’s statement from Facebook, activists say that the situation has by no means improved.

“The Israel-based alQaws organization for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society has reported that following a statement by the PA police against LGBTQ people, violence has “continued unabated” and even “with greater frequency and intensity.” The organization further said that “much of the violence and harassment perpetrated… has been at the hands of police officers themselves.” […]

According to alQaws, the PA police has refused to officially retract its statement against the LGBTQ community in general and alQaws’ activities in particular. This is despite the fact that the police has removed the statement from its official website and its spokesman’s Facebook page, apparently after pressure from human rights groups.

However, without an official retraction, the PA police’s implied sanction of violence against LGBTQ people is still valid, – also in the eyes of police officers themselves who, according to alQaws, are the ones perpetrating “much of the violence and harassment.”

The PA police has also increased their persecution of alQaws activists, possibly due to the great support the organization has received following the police’s anti LGBTQ statement. AlQaws reports on “military-style investigations involving violence, blackmailing, and interrogations marked by coercive, offensive, and insulting questions regarding private lives”.

In that August report Yolande Knell stated that:

Knell: “The EU funded mission which trains Palestinian police said it was continuing to give advice – including on LGBT rights – and that it was trying to clarify the circumstances of the statement.”

Unsurprisingly to those familiar with the level of BBC interest in internal Palestinian affairs, audiences have not seen any follow-up reporting concerning the story itself or the apparent efficacy of the “advice” given by that EU mission with an annual budget of €12.43 million.

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PA’s ban on LGBTQ group gets two minutes of BBC airtime

Disparity in BBC LGBTQ Middle East reporting

 

PA’s ban on LGBTQ group gets two minutes of BBC airtime

Some four hours after BBC Watch noted the absence of any BBC reporting on a story concerning a Palestinian Authority ban on the activities of a LGBTQ group a two-minute item appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ (from 13:57 here) on August 19th.

Newsreader: “Gay rights activists in the West Bank have been threatened online after the Palestinian police announced a ban on their campaigns and meetings and called for help to arrest them. The prohibition of the main local LGBTQ group was announced despite the Palestinian Authority having signed up to various international human rights treaties. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

Knell: “In a statement posted on Facebook, a police spokesman described the actions of the LGBTQ group al Qaws – or rainbow – as a blow to the ideals and values of Palestinian society and against the monotheistic religions. Same sex relations aren’t against the law in the West Bank but homosexuality remains largely taboo, as it is across the Arab world. Those involved with the group have been threatened with arrest, accused of sedition after a recent event in the West Bank. In response to the statement announcing the ban – which has now been deleted from Facebook – members of the Palestinian public posted angry messages. ‘Arrest them and burn them all’ read one. Mohammed Abu Ramilla [phonetic] from al Qaws criticised the police for creating an atmosphere of persecution and intimidation.”

Knell did not clarify where her interviewee is located: a factor obviously relevant to his participation in this item.

Abu Ramilla: “That was so shocking to us. For the police to release such a statement that incites people to follow or to report anyone that knows anything about the organisation, which translates to people reporting anyone they know who might be LGBT or Queer in their lives…well. And we think that’s very dangerous, obviously.”

Knell: “Other activists suggest the Palestinian Authority could be in breach of UN treaties on human rights which it signed to try to strengthen its hand in the conflict with Israel. When contacted by the BBC, the Authority’s police refused to comment. The EU funded mission which trains Palestinian police said it was continuing to give advice – including on LGBT rights – and that it was trying to clarify the circumstances of the statement.”  

The same item was aired six hours later on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ (from 20:13 here).

In short, listeners to one domestic BBC radio station heard a two-minute item in two news bulletins, neither of which will be available to the public a month from now.  

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Disparity in BBC LGBTQ Middle East reporting

 

Disparity in BBC LGBTQ Middle East reporting

Two months ago BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio aired reports by Yolande Knell relating to Pride events in Israel.

BBC’s Yolande Knell reports one pride march protest, erases another

BBC’s Yolande Knell recycles her Jerusalem pride report – with a little help

Listeners heard that:

“Although Israel is proud of its diversity […] today the Jerusalem pride march highlighted how deep social and religious differences remain with angry protests along the route.” 

“As last month’s Eurovision Song Contest showed, Israel likes to demonstrate its diversity but the angry protests at today’s march also highlighted the deep social and religious differences that remain.”

“Tel Aviv’s gay-friendly reputation – which it recently flaunted while hosting the Eurovision Song Contest – draws many same-sex Israeli couples to live here as well as lots of foreign visitors. […] But in Israel rights for the gay community fall behind rising cultural acceptance in society.”

“In the Right-wing coalition governments of the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jewish ultra-orthodox parties have had an influential role. They reject any proposed legislation which they see as condoning homosexuality, saying it defies Jewish law.”

Knell used a cameo of gay Arab Jerusalemites to amplify delegitimisation of Israel by means of accusations of ‘pinkwashing’.

“Now while the anthem of this march is all about celebrating diversity, you don’t see many Palestinian Jerusalemites here. One reason is the social taboo around homosexuality. But some accuse Israel of pinkwashing: highlighting gay rights at events like this while neglecting Palestinian rights.”

“There are also strong differences of opinion among gay Palestinians. Social and legal prohibitions on homosexuality mean they don’t have their own pride events so some with access to the Israeli parades embrace them, like an East Jerusalemite drag queen in a tight black dress and bright red lipstick. Others, like Zizou, choose to boycott. ‘Pride week just helps Israel pinkwash its image’ he complains, accusing the country of presenting itself as progressive, liberal and LGBT friendly to distract from its conflict with the Palestinians.”

Listeners heard nothing more about that “social taboo” or those “social and legal prohibitions on homosexuality”.

In July the BBC News website published an article about a “Palestinian singer blurring gender lines” which failed to provide readers with any substantial information on the issue of the challenges faced by LGBTQ Palestinians living under Hamas or Palestinian Authority rule.

Also last month the BBC chose to ignore a story about the stabbing of a youth from the Arab Israeli town of Tamra outside a Tel Aviv LGBTQ hostel, allegedly by members of his family.

“…Hebrew media have already reported that the youth had moved to Tel Aviv to escape family pressures to adopt a religious lifestyle.

Security camera footage showed one of the suspects stabbing the boy several times before getting into a car and fleeing the scene.

According to Beit Dror [hostel] staff, the teenager identified the assailant as his brother before he collapsed to the ground.

Doctors at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital said Sunday that they had managed to stabilize the youth’s condition, which was upgraded to moderate, after he underwent surgery.”

Another example of BBC self-censorship on the issue of gay rights in Palestinian society comes following the publication of an article by Khaled Abu Toameh.

“The Palestinian Authority banned members of the Palestinian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community from carrying out any activities in the West Bank.

The ban came after the grassroots group Al-Qaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society (Arabic for “the bow”), which engages and supports Palestinians who identify as LGBTQ, was planning to hold a gathering for its members in Nablus at the end of the month. […]

Explaining the decision to ban the LGBTQ group from operating in PA-controlled areas, Luay Zreikat, spokesperson for the PA Police, said that such activities are “harmful to the higher values and ideals of Palestinian society.”

Zreikat said that the group’s activities were completely “unrelated to religions and Palestinian traditions and customs, especially in the city of Nablus.”

He accused unnamed “dubious parties” of working to “create discord and harm civic peace in Palestinian society.”

The PA police will chase those behind the LGBTQ group and see to it that they are brought to trial once they are arrested, Zreikat warned. He further appealed to Palestinians to report to the police about any person connected to the group.”

Although that story has received quite a lot of coverage in local and international media, Yolande Knell and her BBC colleagues in Ramallah have to date shown no interest in reporting it. 

Update: 

PA’s ban on LGBTQ group gets two minutes of BBC airtime

 

BBC News portrays counter-terrorism measure as ‘collective punishment’

On the morning of January 31st a terror attack took place at a checkpoint north of Ramallah.

“Three Israeli soldiers were wounded on Sunday when a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces opened fire at an IDF checkpoint near Beit El in the West Bank. He was shot dead by forces at the scene.

Magen David Adom emergency services said that two victims were in serious condition with wounds to the neck and thigh, respectively, and one was lightly hurt.

The shooter drove up to the Focus checkpoint in a car, was asked for his ID, got out and opened fire with a handgun, injuring the three soldiers. Palestinian reports named him as Amjad Sakari, 35, and said he was a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces who was working as a bodyguard for the Ramallah district attorney.”

There was no BBC coverage of that attack at the time and so audiences were not informed of the Palestinian Authority police force’s glorification of the terrorist.

“In a statement it released following the attack, the Palestinian police announced that “with great pride, the members of the Palestinian police eulogize the brave martyrdom of their colleague, Master Sergeant Amjad Sukkari, “Abu Omar”, who committed the operation at V.I.P checkpoint in Beit El.””

poster PA police

Neither did they learn of similar praise from the PA’s dominant faction Fatah.

poster Fatah

The fact that the terrorist was later buried with honours at a PA organized funeral was also not reported to BBC audiences.  

“The Palestinian Authority on Monday held a military funeral for Amjad Sukkari, the Palestinian policeman who carried out the shooting attack near Bet El a day earlier. Three IDF soldiers were wounded in the attack. […]

Senior PA officials, including the governor of Nablus, Akram Rajoub and Fatah Central Committee member Mahmoud Al-Aloul attended the policeman’s funeral.”

The only very brief mention of that terror attack came over 24 hours later in an article titled “Israel restricts entry to Ramallah after shooting attack” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on February 1st.

“The restrictions were imposed after a Palestinian policeman shot and injured three Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint outside the city before being killed.”

Whilst the short closure was in fact lifted several hours after the BBC’s report appeared, that information was not added to the article, which still remained on the website hours after it was no longer relevant.

The BBC’s report refrained from informing readers of the reason for the closure.

“For the first time in more than a decade, the IDF on Monday placed a partial daylong blockade around the large West Bank city of Ramallah. […]

The IDF’s Central Command imposed the closure after security consultation. It had received concrete alerts about future attacks originating from Ramallah, security sources told The Jerusalem Post.” [emphasis added]

Instead, the BBC elected to misrepresent a counter-terrorism measure to its audiences by means of amplification of Palestinian propaganda.

collective punishment

Had BBC audiences been made aware of the facts behind the partial one-day closure of Ramallah and had they been told that the quoted spokesman’s organization publicly glorified his colleague’s act of terror, they may have been able to put his irrelevant claim into more appropriate context.

But at the same time as it eagerly provides uncritical amplification for such propaganda, the BBC continues to embrace an editorial policy according to which PA incitement and glorification of terrorism are taboo subjects, thus undermining the corporation’s public purpose remit of enhancing audiences’ understanding of international issues.

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