BBC report on end of Palestinian prisoners’ ‘hunger strike’ tells part of the story

As had been predicted even before it began, the hunger strike by some mainly Fatah-linked Palestinian prisoners was brought to an end as Ramadan commenced.

The BBC News website reported that story in an article titled “Palestinians in Israeli jails end 40-day hunger strike” which appeared on the site’s main home page, ‘World’ page and Middle East page on May 27th.

The article opens with promotion of the alleged number of prisoners on hunger strike which is identical to the number put out by the PA – while Israeli sources said that the number was actually 834

“More than 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails ended a mass hunger strike against detention conditions.

Israeli officials said the move – at the start of the holy month of Ramadan – came after an agreement to allow two family visits per month, not just one.”

Seeing as no other body is mentioned by the BBC, readers would be likely to understand that the number of monthly family visits is dictated by Israel. However, as the Times of Israel reports, that is not the whole story.

“According to the prisons service, an agreement was reached after talks that involved the Red Cross to end the strike before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that begins Saturday. The prisons service denied Palestinian claims that strike leader Marwan Barghouti had negotiated with Israeli officials.

The prisons service said the prisoners would now get an extra family visit per month, one of the prisoner demands that is administered solely by the Red Cross.

The Red Cross had reduced the visits from two to one per month about a year ago because they said they lacked the funds to pay for them and most times no relatives were showing up. The Palestinian Authority has agreed to pay for the new visits.

Israel said none of the other Palestinian demands had been met.” [emphasis added]

As noted here previously, Marwan Barghouti had presented the Israeli Prison Service with a list of nineteen demands.

Channel 2 News reports that the cost of the second monthly visit to be funded by the Palestinian Authority (which is of course permanently shored up by foreign donations) is $6 million per annum.

Like several previous BBC reports, this latest article amplifies PLO messaging by promoting the notion that convicted terrorists can be seen as ‘political prisoners’.

“Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

The BBC’s coverage of the distinctly less than unanimous ‘hunger strike’ by some Palestinian prisoners serving sentences in Israeli prisons has been generous – see ‘related articles’ below – but rife with omission. While the BBC repeatedly told its audiences over the last 40 days that the strike’s aim was to “protest detention conditions”, it did not inform them what those conditions entail or exactly what the strikers were demanding. Neither did any of its reports clarify the political background to the strike which was rooted in internal Fatah power struggles.

Those repeated omissions and others mean that BBC audiences have not been provided with comprehensive, accurate and objective reporting of this story.  

Related Articles:

BBC News promotes PLO narrative in copious coverage of prisoners’ strike

BBC fails to provide crucial background in reports on Fatah prisoners’ strike

Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”

BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

Omissions in the BBC’s report on terrorist’s ‘hunger strike’ nosh

BBC Trending recycles a previously published BDS falsehood

Three stories the BBC will not tell its audiences

 

 

 

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Three stories the BBC will not tell its audiences

As has been noted in previous posts (see related articles below) concerning the BBC’s coverage of the hunger strike by convicted Palestinian terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons, while audiences have been told that the strike’s aim is to “protest detention conditions”, they have not been informed in any of the BBC’s reports what those conditions entail or exactly what the strikers are demanding.

On May 15th the strike leader Marwan Barghouti’s list of nineteen demands was published.

Also apparently among the leaders of the hunger strike are two cousins – Karim and Maher Younis – who are both serving 40 year sentences for the kidnapping and murder of Israeli soldier Avraham Bromberg in the early 1980s. Earlier this month (while Mahmoud Abbas was visiting the White House and telling the US president that the PA is “raising […] children […] on a culture of peace”) a Palestinian Authority official and the PLO announced that a main street in Jenin is to be named after Karim Younis. This week a square in the town of Tulkarem was named after the other cousin, Maher Younis.

As recently as last week BBC World Service audiences were told that Israel “has long accused Palestinian officials” of glorifying terrorism but seeing as the BBC consistently avoids reporting stories such as the naming of streets, squares, schools and sports tournaments after terrorists, its audiences are not in a position to know whether such charges are true.

Another story that BBC audiences are unlikely to be told is that of a Palestinian Legislative Council MP from Fatah (previously imprisoned for membership in a terrorist organisation) who was recently caught on camera hurling rocks during a riot.

“A Palestinian Authority lawmaker recently took part in violent clashes against Israeli security forces in the West Bank, images of which were published on Monday.

In the photos, Fatah party member Jamal Hawil can be seen using a slingshot to hurl rocks at Israeli troops during a riot at the Beit El junction amid large plumes of smoke, as well as taking cover behind makeshift barricades alongside other protesters.

Asked by Channel 2 to comment on the images, Hawil tried to downplay the significance of a PA official throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers.

“It doesn’t matter if I threw rocks or not, the entire Palestinian nation throws rocks,” he said.”

As readers may recall, on May 3rd the BBC News website inaccurately informed audiences that during Mahmoud Abbas’ visit to the White House, the US president had “stressed there would be no lasting peace unless both nations found a way to stop incitement of violence”. The BBC, however, consistently fails its audiences by refraining from providing the readily available information which would enhance their understanding of the involvement of the Palestinian Authority and its ruling party Fatah in promoting violence, incitement and glorification of terrorism.

Related Articles:

BBC News promotes PLO narrative in copious coverage of prisoners’ strike

BBC fails to provide crucial background in reports on Fatah prisoners’ strike

Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”

BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

Omissions in the BBC’s report on terrorist’s ‘hunger strike’ nosh

BBC Trending recycles a previously published BDS falsehood

Weekend long read

1) Ahead of the upcoming presidential election in Iran, Potkin Azarmehr provides a useful guide to the electoral system in that country.

“Iran’s next presidential elections are scheduled to be held on 19th May. Iranians are given a choice of six candidates to choose from for the next president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The question I am often asked these days is ‘who will be the next president of Iran? Will Rouhani have a second term or will it be one of the other five candidates?’

Islamic Republic of Iran is a unique system of governance with no precedence in history prior to 1979. It is the first time the Shia clerics experience running the government and there is currently no other similar form of governing a country anywhere else in the world.

It is therefore important to understand how this unique system of governance works and not to assume this is a presidential elections similar to what takes place elsewhere.”

2) Jonathan Spyer reports on his extraordinary visit to Syria.

“I should explain first of all how I came to be in Damascus.   I have been writing about Syria now for over a decade.  I have visited the country numerous times since the outbreak of its civil war in mid-2011.  My visits, though, were always to the areas controlled by the Sunni Arab rebels or the Kurdish separatist forces.  This was a notable gap in my coverage.  I wanted to remedy it.

The Assad regime makes it hard for journalists to acquire visas.  The authorities are keen consumers of media, and keep track of the names of reporters who have spent time among their enemies.  The number of journalists who have managed to report from both the government and rebel sides is very small.  I  had tried on a number of occasions to acquire a visa, but made little progress.

Finally, a colleague suggested the idea of joining a delegation of foreign supporters of the regime.  With the war going its way since late 2015, the Syrian government has begun to cautiously open up to visitors. But like other authoritarian regimes, it prefers to welcome these in groups, and under careful supervision.

I made contact with the organizers of one of these delegations. The process was surprisingly straightforward.”

3) At the Tablet, Tony Badran takes a look at the current state of Lebanese politics.

“A high-level delegation of Lebanese politicians and bankers reportedly will visit Washington later this month to try and convince Congress to soften impending sanctions legislation designed to squeeze the Iranian proxy, Hezbollah. Already, there have been visitors from Lebanon in recent weeks for this purpose, and there’s been speculation in Lebanese media that prime minister Saad Hariri, who has expressed his hope to “change” the legislation, might himself come to town to make the case for going easy on Lebanon.

Generally speaking, the function of Hariri and what is known as “the Lebanese government” in the power configuration in Lebanon is confined to this sort of activity, which could be summarized as running interference for and mopping up after Hezbollah, the real authority in the country. It is principally for this reason, among others, that Hariri’s erstwhile patrons in Saudi Arabia effectively have washed their hands of Lebanon, and pulled a grant they had pledged to the Lebanese Armed Forces. Why waste money on an Iranian satrapy?

Hariri is stuck. In order to return as prime minister, he had to sign on to Hezbollah’s terms. This has meant endorsing Hezbollah’s ally, Michel Aoun, for president, in order to form a new government. And the new government was stacked with Hezbollah allies in key ministries.”

4) Writing at Ynet, Ben Dror Yemini gives his view of the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike and its initiator.

“We want peace. We fight for peace. But in the meantime we must remember that we are in a state of war. Not one war, but two wars. One is taking place on the battlefield. Hamas drags us there every few years. This war is being waged on a lower key, both through the knifing and stone-throwing terror attacks and through different other measures targeting Israel nonstop.

The second war is a war on the collective consciousness. A war of demonization. A war that seeks to present Israel as a monster. This war has had quite a lot of achievements.

The jailed terrorists, from Fatah and Hamas, have become full partners in both wars. Some of them try to launch and plan terror attacks from prison. Others try to present themselves as martyrs fighting for “an end to the occupation” or for “liberation.” Every other prisoner tries to present himself as a freedom fighter, and every other prisoner is actually Nelson Mandela. It’s true that they murdered civilians and babies and women and elderly people. And it’s true that when they say “an end to the occupation,” they are referring to Tel Aviv as well. And it’s true that their liberation is sort of like the Islamic State is liberating Iraq and Hamas is liberating Gaza. But in the war on the collective consciousness, they are winning.” 

BBC Trending recycles a previously published BDS falsehood

On May 10th an article credited to Lamia Estatie appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page and on the BBC Trending blog. At the bottom of the article readers are told that it was produced “By the UGC [user-generated content – Ed.] and Social News team; Additional reporting by BBC Monitoring in Cairo”.

Titled “Arabs call for Pizza Hut boycott after prisoner ad“, the article relates to a story that emerged on the same day.

“Arabs on social are calling for a boycott of the popular pizza chain and franchise after one of its Israel branches posted a Facebook advert said to “mock” Palestinian hunger strikers.

Pizza Hut has apologised for the now deleted post, saying it was “completely inappropriate and does not reflect the values of our brand” and added that “the relationship with the agency that posted it was terminated”.

Israeli prison authorities had earlier released an [sic] video of Marwan Barghouti – who is leading a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons – allegedly secretly eating cookies. Mr Barghouti’s wife has said the prison service footage was “fake”.

But Pizza Hut used a screen grab of the video with a Photoshopped pizza box in the cell. The post in Hebrew read: “Barghouti, if you are going to break your strike, isn’t pizza the better choice?””

Nowhere throughout the entire article are BBC audiences informed that Marwan Barghouti is serving five life sentences for his role in lethal terror attacks and neither are they told that additional “Palestinian hunger strikers” are also serving time for acts of terror. As in previous BBC reports concerning the ‘hunger strike’ (see ‘related articles’ below), audiences are not told what the “jail conditions” that the prisoners are supposedly protesting actually are or what they are demanding. Neither are readers given any insight into the political background of the strike.

“Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners have been refusing food since 17 April to protest against Israeli jail conditions, relying on an intake of saltwater.” 

“Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour has said that more than 6,500 Palestinians are imprisoned or arbitrarily detained by Israel.”

Another noteworthy aspect of this article comes in the following paragraph:

“The BDS – or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – is a self-described human rights organisations [sic] which supports a boycott of Israel as a form of pressure. Support for the campaign has grown on UK university campuses and has been criticised by some Jewish students.” [emphasis added]

The link in that paragraph leads to an article by Jon Ironmonger that appeared on the BBC News website on April 27th and was discussed here. There too BBC audiences were inaccurately led to believe that the BDS campaign is a “human rights” group.

“The BDS – which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – describes itself as a human rights organisation and criticises Israel for its human rights record.

It says it stands for “freedom, justice and equality”, saying it is “inclusive and categorically opposes as a matter of principle all forms of racism” – including anti-Semitism.”” [emphasis added]

As was noted here at the time:

“Had audiences been told in the BBC’s own words that the BDS campaign is opposed to Jews having the basic human right to self-determination in their own country and that denial of Israel’s right to exist is considered – including by the UN Secretary General and according to the definition adopted by the UK government – to be a form of antisemitism, they would have been able to put the BDS campaign’s claim to be a non-racist human rights organisation into its correct context.”

As we once again see from this latest BBC Trending article, when inaccurate information is promoted by the BBC it not only misleads the corporation’s funding public, but also its own staff. The result is that myths such as the claim that the BDS movement promotes human rights are recycled and spread even further.

Related Articles:

BBC News promotes PLO narrative in copious coverage of prisoners’ strike

BBC fails to provide crucial background in reports on Fatah prisoners’ strike

Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”

BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

Omissions in the BBC’s report on terrorist’s ‘hunger strike’ nosh

 

Omissions in the BBC’s report on terrorist’s ‘hunger strike’ nosh

On May 8th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article – titled “Palestinian hunger strike leader Barghouti ‘filmed eating’” – which relates to a story that broke the previous day.

“Israel’s prison service has released a video purportedly showing the leader of a three-week-old hunger strike by Palestinian inmates eating in his cell.

The service said Marwan Barghouti had been filmed consuming cookies in secret on 27 April and a snack bar on 5 May.”

The article gives generous amplification to statements from interested parties and even before they clicked on the link, BBC audiences were informed that ‘Marwan Barghouti’s wife says the surveillance footage released by Israel’s prison service is “fake”‘.

“Barghouti’s wife said the footage was “fake” and intended to break the morale of the hunger strike’s participants. […]

The head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, Qadoura Fares, called the video a fabrication, stressing Barghouti was being held in solitary confinement at Kishon prison and had no access to food.

“This is psychological warfare that we expected Israel to wage against the strike,” he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, said Israel was “resorting to despicable acts” and warned that they would “increase the prisoners’ insistence on continuing”.”

Previous BBC reports on the story of the hunger strike that commenced on April 17th told BBC audiences that “More than 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails have begun a mass hunger strike against detention conditions”.

In this article readers are told that:

“More than 890 prisoners have been refusing food since 17 April in protest at conditions in Israeli jails.”

They are not however informed that Israeli officials put the number of striking prisoners at around 800 and that participation fell after some dropped out.

Neither are BBC audiences reminded that this is not the first time that Barghouti has been caught eating during a supposed ‘hunger strike’.

“In 2004, the prison service published still shots allegedly showing Barghouti furtively eating food in his cell during a previous hunger strike. Those photos were taken with a hidden camera through a hole in the wall of his cell.”

While this article promotes the claim that the hunger strike is a protest against “conditions in Israeli jails”, once again readers are not informed of the political background to the story and its connection to internal Fatah power struggles.

With regard to Barghouti himself, readers are told that he “was convicted on five counts of murder by an Israeli court in 2004” and that:

“Barghouti is the former leader of the Fatah movement in the West Bank and chief of its armed wing, the Tanzim.

His trial during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, turned him into household name and he enjoys widespread support among many Palestinian factions.

The 57-year-old has been touted as a possible successor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.”

Remarkably – yet unsurprisingly – the BBC refrains from informing readers that groups that Barghouti headed and founded engaged in terrorism under his leadership and that the “five counts of murder” for which he was convicted were terror attacks. The sole use of the word ‘terrorists’ in this report comes in a quote from an Israeli minister.

Related Articles:

BBC News promotes PLO narrative in copious coverage of prisoners’ strike

BBC fails to provide crucial background in reports on Fatah prisoners’ strike

Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”

BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

 

BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

When some mostly Fatah-linked Palestinians serving sentences in Israeli prisons began a hunger strike on April 17th, the BBC produced three reports on that story on consecutive days. As was noted here at the time:

“…in all three of the reports, readers find (not for the first time) amplification of the PLO’s narrative concerning Palestinian prisoners – as promoted, for example, in a PLO ‘media brief’ from June 2015. [emphasis added]

Report 1: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

Report 2: “Palestinians say the detainees are political prisoners, while Israel describes them as “terrorists”” (photo caption)

                  “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

Report 3: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis.”

The idea that people who have been convicted of perpetrating acts of terrorism are ‘political prisoners’ is rejected in Europe and we certainly do not see the BBC promoting the notion that people imprisoned in the UK for terror related offences may be defined in such terms.”

On May 2nd the BBC went one step further. Apparently not content with the above uncritical and unqualified amplification of the partisan narrative of the PLO, Jerusalem bureau correspondent Yolande Knell dispensed with the nicety “Palestinians regard”, electing to describe convicted terrorists as “political prisoners” in her (and hence the BBC’s) own words.

Knell’s audio report was broadcast to Radio 4 audiences in the programme ‘The World Tonight’ (from 39:09 here) and an almost identical version of the report was broadcast to BBC World Service audiences in the programme ‘Newshour’ (from 38:11 here).

After listeners heard the sound of chanting, Knell began her report as follows: [emphasis added]

Knell: “Chants of support for Palestinian political prisoners in Israel jails who’ve been refusing food for two weeks in a protest about conditions. As President Abbas prepares to meet President Trump, tensions are rising back home, leading to renewed clashes with Israeli soldiers. In Ramallah I meet Fadwa Barghouti. Her husband Marwan – a popular figure in the president’s Fatah faction – is serving five life sentences for murder in Israel and is leading the hunger strike. She says Palestinians care deeply for the prisoners.”

With Fadwa Barghouti speaking in Arabic in the background, Knell then told listeners:

Knell:”The whole Palestinian people’s been subjected to imprisonment, she tells me. Every Palestinian home knows what it means to have a prisoner, knows suffering and injured pride.”

Of course very many Israeli homes know suffering too: the suffering of having had a loved one murdered by Palestinian terrorists in attacks such as those directed by Fadwa Barghouti’s husband. In her typical style Yolande Knell, however, erased that terrorism and its victims from her pathos-rich yet obviously biased portrayal of terrorists on hunger strike (albeit in waning numbers – which Knell neglected to mention) as “political prisoners”. She continued:

Knell: “Earlier there was another rally in Gaza where Palestinians burnt posters of their president. Here the anger is driven by the damaging internal split between Fatah and its Islamist rival Hamas – which controls Gaza – as well as the moribund peace process.”

Knell provided no evidence to back her bizarre claim that the demonstrations in Gaza on May 2nd were motivated by “the moribund peace process”. She went on:

Knell: “At Birzeit University politics professor George Giacaman now sees Mr Abbas in a tricky position in Washington. He thinks he’ll come under pressure to return to peace talks with Israel without a deal to stop Jewish settlement growth on land the Palestinians want for their future state. That would be very hard to sell to the public.”

Making no effort to inform BBC audiences that the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – the Oslo Accords – do not place any limitations of construction in Israeli communities in Area C but do state that the final status of that area is to be determined in negotiations and its portrayal as “Palestinian land” therefore amplifies a partisan position, Knell allowed her interviewee to promote the myth of “new settlements”: a notion she and her editors know perfectly well is false. [emphasis added]

Giacaman: “The Palestinian side has insisted throughout the past years that before negotiation starts, there has to be a hold to the settlement process. You have to keep in mind that this occupation of Palestinian land spearheaded by the establishment of new settlements in the West Bank undermines any political process, including of course the two-state solution.”

Listeners then heard a recording from the press conference at the meeting between the Israeli prime minister and the US president earlier in the year.

Trump: “As far as settlements, I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We’ll work something out but I would like to see a deal be made. I think a deal will be made.”

Knell next recycled the ‘policy shift’ theme the BBC has been pushing since mid-February even though it was quickly refuted by US officials.

Knell: “President Trump speaking to Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February. Israel had announced plans for several thousand new settler homes during his first month in office with relatively little criticism. And the new US leader appeared ready to break with long-established American foreign policy backing the creation of a Palestinian state as the only way to end the Middle East conflict.”

Trump: “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two but, honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians…if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like best.”

Knell: “Palestinians don’t expect the meeting between Mr Abbas and Mr Trump to be so friendly. But the Palestinian president has tried to strengthen his hand by meeting the leaders of Washington’s close Arab allies Egypt and Jordan on his way to the White House. So could the US be about to broker another round of peace talks?”

Giacaman: “I doubt if anything would come of it. I don’t think President Abbas has anything new to offer and I doubt Mr Trump is in a position to give the Israeli-Palestinian issue all his concentrations. The exposure to American public opinion and to the American leadership; this will help a lot because they are the only people in the world who can influence the Palestinians, Israelis to go to peace.”

Knell closed her report:

Knell: “Recently Palestinians have seen their cause overshadowed by other regional concerns. Their leaders now hope that the unpredictable approach of Mr Trump could work in their favour. Their official line is that he offers a rare chance for peace.”

Knell’s portrayal of the chances of renewal of negotiations of course airbrushed very pertinent context such as the increasingly acrimonious rift between the PA and Hamas and the related fact that the long since unelected Mahmoud Abbas cannot even set foot in the Gaza Strip, let alone claim to represent all the Palestinians.  

However, Knell’s aim in this report was obviously not to provide domestic and foreign BBC audiences with a realistic, accurate and impartial report on the story but to promote PLO talking points – primarily the false claim that imprisoned terrorists are “political prisoners”.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part three: BBC Radio 4

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part two: World Service radio

BBC News promotes PLO narrative in copious coverage of prisoners’ strike

BBC fails to provide crucial background in reports on Fatah prisoners’ strike

Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”

Inaccuracies and omissions in BBC News reporting on Abbas White House visit

Resources:

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Weekend long read

1) The Fathom journal carries a useful essay by Paul Bogdanor.

“In this meticulous rebuttal of the former Mayor of London’s charge that ‘you had right up until the start of the second world war real collaboration [between Nazis and Zionists]’, Paul Bogdanor, author of Kasztner’s Crime, points to Ken Livingstone’s ‘mutilations of the historical record and of the very sources he cites’ and the politically reactionary character of Livingstone’s version of history which ‘equates persecutors and rescuers, aggressors and victims, the powerful and the powerless, oppressors and the oppressed.’”

2) The COGAT website has a backgrounder on the subject of payments to terrorists by the Palestinian National Fund(PNF) – a topic serially avoided by BBC journalists.

“The Palestine National Fund, whose sources of income and expenses are partially known, has become the primary funder of the Commission for Prisoners’ Affairs since 2014. The PNF began its funding of the commission after criticism was raised to the Palestinian Authority (PA) by key players in the international community regarding the activity of the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs. The international community’s claim was that the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs should not allocate money from its budget to fund the welfare of terror operatives, as a reward for carrying out security offenses and at the expense of all Palestinians.  

Following pressure from the international community, the Palestinian Authority decided to subordinate the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs to the PNF and changed its name to the Commission for Prisoners’ Affairs. It is clear that this new commission is similar to the ministry—in terms of managers, offices and even contains a nearly identical budget that stands at close to half a billion NIS per year. This new commission is a similar replica of the ministry, but with a new name.”

3) The BBC’s recent copious coverage of the hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners organised by Marwan Barghouti informed audiences that the strikers are protesting “detention conditions” and “conditions in Israeli jails” without clarifying what those conditions are. COGAT also has a backgrounder on that topic.

“As of March 2017, there are 6,100 security prisoners in Israeli jails, most of them between the ages of 18 and 25. According to the definition, security prisoners in Israel are those convicted of an offense that involves harm to the State of Israel or a nationalistic motive. Over 2,000 are serving their sentences for being directly responsible for the murder of Israelis.  […]

Security prisoners in Israel are entitled to a number of  basic rights, as well as receiving additional benefits. Under the basic conditions, inmates are entitled to meet with an attorney (within a professional framework), receive medical treatment, religious rights, basic living conditions (such as hot water, showers and sanitation), proper ventilation and electric infrastructure. They also receive regular visits from the Red Cross and education as well.  

Apart from these basic conditions, security prisoners in Israel’s are entitled to receive newspapers, send and receive letters and read and keep their own books. Prisoners are even permitted to buy goods from the prison’s canteen, which is run by the inmates themselves. If that is not enough, relatives of prisoners can deposit money for them at the post office’s bank. As a part of the living conditions, prisoners receive family visitations, television watching hours and even electrical appliances, such as kettles and mosquito killers.”

4) With the BBC not infrequently providing amplification for the apartheid smear against Israel, an interview with the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation to Israel and the PA published by Ynet is of interest.

“The Red Cross was very familiar with the regime that prevailed in South Africa during the apartheid period, and we are responding to all those who raise their claim of apartheid against Israel: No, there is no apartheid here, no regime of superiority of race, of denial of basic human rights to a group of people because of their alleged racial inferiority. There is a bloody national conflict, whose most prominent and tragic characteristic is its continuation over the years, decades-long, and there is a state of occupation. Not apartheid.”

Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”

As noted in a recent post, the April 17th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ included a monologue from a person described as “the mother of a Palestinian inmate”. The monologue was also promoted to the BBC World Service Twitter account’s 303,000 followers and those who listened to the clip heard the following in a voice-over:

“I haven’t seen or visited my son for around maybe ten months. Israeli security won’t let me see him. When I used to visit Diya I felt as if I owned the world. Every visit request I put in only comes back with rejection, rejection, rejection. I’m 67 years old. What risk am I to Israel’s security? I am of no danger. All I want is to see my son, to check on him and he can check on me. This is all I want but they deprive even a mother from seeing her son and a son from seeing his mother.”

While BBC audiences are no strangers to the promotion of pathos-rich stories from the elderly mothers of convicted terrorists, the fact that listeners were not told who the speaker is or why her son is in prison and did not hear any response to her allegations from the Israeli authorities obviously does not inspire confidence in the BBC’s commitment to impartial reporting of this story.

So who is this “mother of a Palestinian inmate”? A clue to that question comes in a video that appears on the BBC Arabic website and is also embedded in an Arabic language article titled “More than a thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails begin hunger strike” that, like its English language equivalent, promotes the notion that Palestinian “detainees” might be seen as “political prisoners”.

The woman extensively profiled in that BBC Arabic video is called Najat al Agha and she lives in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. Mrs al Agha is by no means publicity shy: she recently told a very similar story to the one promoted by ‘Newsday’ to ‘Amnesty International’ which, predictably, is supplying publicity for the current Fatah hunger strike.

“Najat al-Agha, a 67-year-old woman from Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, told Amnesty International that her son, Dia al-Agha, 43, has been imprisoned in Israel for the past 25 years. At the age of 19 he was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted on murder charges.  He is being held in Nafha prison in Mitzpe Ramon in the south.

“I don’t know why I get rejected. I am 67 years old. What security threat am I to Israel? All I want is to see him and make sure he is well. I don’t know how long I will live, any visit can be my last. I am scared of dying without seeing him,” his mother said.

“Every time I apply for a permit I get rejected. It is almost a year that I haven’t seen my son, it is devastating. They are punishing us, they are trying to break us.””

Moreover, Najat al Agha – who actually has had two sons serve time in prison in Israel – appears to come forward to tell her story quite frequently and – perhaps not unrelatedly – has been the recipient of ‘honorary gifts’ from the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.

The son she names in the ‘Newsday’ clip is Diya Zakariya Shaker Al-Agha “Al-Faluji”. He was convicted of the murder of Amatzia Ben Haim from Kibbutz Yad Mordechai in a greenhouse in Ganei Tal in October 1992.

“…Amatzia worked as an engineer in the fledgling electronics factory of the kibbutz. The final product was a computer controlled irrigation and liquid fertilization system sold to farmers who owned greenhouses, small plots of land, who grew tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, and flowers.

Amatzia would go to these farms, install the systems, and often go back to maintain them or to troubleshoot them if needed.  Some of these farms were in the Gaza Strip, prior to the Israeli evacuation of all farms and settlements in Gaza.

It was on one of these trips that Amatzia was helping one such farmer in the Gaza strip, focused entirely on an irrigation line that may have been clogged, or a computer lead that may have malfunctioned. He did not pay attention to the young teen working nearby with a hoe, weeding the furrows. It was to be Amatzia’s last day on earth, as the teen brought the hoe down on Amatzia’s head, killing him instantly, widowing Amatzia’s wife, and orphaning his children.”

A media organisation truly committed to accurate and impartial journalism would of course have provided its audiences with information concerning the “Palestinian inmate” and the act of terror he committed. The BBC World Service, however, chose to give completely context-free amplification to his mother’s claim that Israel is ‘depriving’ her of seeing her son, without any mention of the fact that her son deprived three children – the youngest of whom was only five years old at the time – from ever seeing their father again.

That, of course, is not accurate and impartial journalism but self-conscription to a political campaign.

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BBC fails to provide crucial background in reports on Fatah prisoners’ strike

As regular readers are aware, despite having offices in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza the BBC does not devote much coverage to the topic of internal Palestinian politics. In particular, the story of internal Fatah power struggles is one that has been serially under-reported in recent months.

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That chronic lack of coverage means that BBC audiences are not well placed to understand the developing story of a pre-planned hunger strike by Fatah prisoners serving time in Israeli prisons.

As analyst Avi Issacharoff pointed out when it was announced earlier this month, while ostensibly about prison conditions, the hunger strike – led by convicted terrorist Marwan Barghouti – is actually rooted in the Fatah power struggle.

“Officially, the Barghouti-led prisoners’ move is in protest of what they see as the Israel Prison Service’s failure to meet their demands regarding an improvement of conditions in the detention centers.

The strike will be Barghouti’s most significant test since he entered prison some 15 years ago. […]

In the Fatah Central Committee’s leadership elections (the party’s most senior institution) in December, he won first place. His wife, Fadwa, took the top place in the movement’s Revolutionary Council elections (the party’s second most senior institution). He is ostensibly the movement’s undisputed leader, despite being behind bars.

However, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his loyalists in the Fatah leadership have carried a series of steps to isolate and weaken him. Abbas did not appoint him as deputy chairman of Fatah, as Barghouti had expected, and other senior positions were divided between rivals Jibril Rajoub and Mahmoud al-Mottak.

Barghouti’s backers also failed to be elected to other spots in the Central Committee, and he’s realized that he has been slowly pushed out of the picture.

Forced from the halls of power, Barghouti is using the strike to signal to the PA with that he can still wield considerable power in the Palestinian street.”

The strike commenced on April 17th and at the time of writing is limited to just over a thousand of the Fatah-linked prisoners.

“The hunger strike initiated by jailed Fatah official Marwan Barghouti is expected to start Monday – to coincide with Palestinian “Prisoners Day,” an annual event held in solidarity with the more than 6,000 Palestinian security prisoners incarcerated in Israeli jails. Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences for his role in murderous terror attacks during the Second Intifada in the early 2000s.

With the annual event comes the concern of increased tensions in the prisons, and in the West Bank with Israeli security forces. Hamas, Fatah’s main rival, announced Sunday that its members will also join the strike, as did the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), another Palestinian faction. […]

Barghouti began to call for a strike after talks between prisoners’ representatives and the Israel Prison Service on improving prison conditions reached an impasse. Those talks began more than a year and a half ago. […]

Among the demands from Barghouti and the prisoners are the resumption of a second monthly visit by family members (a benefit that was cancelled by the International Committee of the Red Cross due to budget cuts), the prevention of family meetings being cancelled for security reasons, and the restoration of academic studies and matriculation exams to prisoners. Other demands include more television channels being available in cells and cell phones in security wings.

According to sources close to Barghouti, the gradual increase in prisoners joining the strike is a planned step intended to prevent it from breaking early. But some have said that the fact that only about half of the Fatah prisoners announced that they would join points to a disagreement over Barghouti’s measure.

Barghouti supporters are also planning parades and demonstrations in the West Bank in support of the strike.”

On April 17th the BBC produced coverage of the strike on various platforms.

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ heard from the anonymous mother of an anonymous prisoner. A context-free clip from that programme was circulated on BBC social media accounts under the title “A mother’s plea for prison visitations” with the following synopsis:

“More than a thousand Palestinians held in Israeli prisons have begun a mass hunger strike against detention conditions. Rallies in support of the prisoners have been held in the occupied West Bank, and led to clashes with the Israeli security forces in the city of Bethlehem. The BBC spoke to the mother of a Palestinian inmate.”

Viewers of BBC television news programmes saw a short filmed report which was also posted on the BBC News website under the title “Palestinians clash with Israeli forces in support of prisoners“. The background to the story was described as follows in that report:

“Palestinian youths are clashing with Israeli forces in the West Bank. They are out in support of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners who are on mass hunger strike against their detention conditions. There are fears that the protests could fuel tensions in the region.”

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page found an article titled “Palestinians in Israeli jails hold mass hunger strike” which informs them that:

“More than 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails have begun a mass hunger strike against detention conditions.”

The report does clarify that the hunger strike is led by Marwan Barghouti:

“The action is being led by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader jailed by Israel for life for five murders.

Barghouti has been touted as a possible future successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.”

However, like the other reports, the strike’s political background is entirely erased from this account of the story and instead audience attentions are focused on “detention conditions” without clarification of the specific demands.

Securing amplification from international media organisations is of course part of the strategy of the organisers behind this pre-planned action. If the BBC is going to collaborate with that strategy, it should at least be telling its audiences the whole story behind the motives for the strike.

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The BBC, the elderly mothers of convicted terrorists and Twitter

As readers will no doubt be aware, the fourth and final round of releases of prisoners as a ‘goodwill gesture’ to the Palestinian Authority is scheduled to take place later this week. Many of those released in the previous rounds last August, October and December were convicted terrorists most – but not all – of whom committed their crimes before the signing of the Oslo Accords.

In its coverage of the previous rounds of prisoner releases the BBC’s reporting has largely focused on the celebrations of the events organized by the Palestinian Authority but notably, at no point has the BBC raised the question of how such displays of PA sanctioned glorification of terrorism fit into the ‘peace process’. 

Some BBC reports have erroneously portrayed the convicted terrorists as “political prisoners” – thus promoting and amplifying the PA’s narrative – and there has been little coverage of the crimes the prisoners committed and even less coverage (with one exception) of the terrorists’ victims and their families. 

Last October’s round of releases saw the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell promoting an emotional quote from the elderly mother of one of the released murderers in her report on the event.

“A prisoner’s elderly mother, Amuna Abed Rabbo, had come from Bethlehem in a wheelchair wearing her traditional embroidered dress. “Thank God my son returned back to me before I die. I have all the happiness in the world,” she said.”

Knell also promoted a photograph of the woman on Twitter.

It would appear that we can expect more of the same in this round too, with the BBC Arabic producer Michael Shuval having sent the following context-free tweet on March 23rd.

Tweet Shuval Walid Daka

Farida Daka’s son Walid is currently serving 37 years imprisonment for his part in the kidnapping, murder and mutilation of a nineteen year-old Israeli soldier named Moshe Tamam in August 1984. Like his three accomplices, Walid Daka (also spelt Daqqa or Dakah) was a member of the PFLP at the time.

Moshe Tamam’s mother is called Galia. Whether or not BBC audiences will be told about her tears – or those of any other family members of the victims of the terrorists scheduled for release – remains to be seen.