Claim shown to be false a year ago recycled in simplistic BBC backgrounder

As noted here previously on May 14th the BBC News website published a backgrounder apparently intended to mitigate weeks of context-free amplification of (unsuccessful) calls to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest being held in Tel Aviv.  

Produced by ‘Newsbeat’ – the department of BBC News which purports to produce “news tailored for a specifically younger audience” – and titled “Eurovision 2019: The Israeli-Palestinian situation explained”, the unattributed article is tagged ‘Gaza border clashes’.

The article opens by telling BBC audiences that:

“This year’s Eurovision has an extra layer of controversy – because it’s being held in Israel. […]

But there have been calls to boycott the event by critics of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.”

What “Israel’s policies” are is not properly explained anywhere in the article. Policies such as the supply of electricity and provision of medical treatment to Palestinians of course do not get a mention. Readers are then materially misled by the following portrayal of the conflict:

“The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has gone on for decades, and the dispute over land is at its heart.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s adoption of that inaccurate notion of course means that it does not have to explain to its audiences the issue of Muslim objection to the presence of the Jewish state in the Middle East.

The article continues with a sub-section purporting to outline the history behind the conflict in which the Arab riots of the 1920s and 1930s are whitewashed. Ignoring the Arab violence which followed the UN Partition Plan vote, the article moves on to “The creation of Israel and the ‘Catastrophe’”.

“In 1948, unable to solve the problem, British rulers left and Jewish leaders declared the creation of the state of Israel.

Many Palestinians objected and a war followed. Troops from neighbouring Arab countries invaded.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced out of their homes in what they call Al Nakba, or the “Catastrophe”.

That link leads to a problematic article published a year ago in which Palestinians are exclusively portrayed as totally passive victims and all mention of the responsibility of the Arab leaders who rejected the 1947 Partition Plan and subsequently started the war that led to their displacement is missing. 

The displacement of Palestinians did not take place – as the BBC would obviously have its audiences believe – only after Israel declared independence on May 14th 1948. In fact:

“Roughly half of those fleeing did so between November 1947 (when Palestinian Arabs responded to the United Nations partition recommendation with anti-Jewish violence) and May 1948 (when the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon invaded Palestine).”

The BBC carefully avoids thorny topics such as Palestinian hereditary refugee status and the reasons why Palestinians living in Palestinian controlled areas are still defined as ‘refugees’. The issue of certain Arab countries’ deliberate policy of discriminating against Palestinians and keeping them in perpetual refugee status for over 70 years is of course not mentioned in this ‘backgrounder’.

Readers are told that:

“Israel still occupies the West Bank, and although it pulled out of Gaza the UN still regards that piece of land as part of occupied territory.” [emphasis added]

No explanation of the background to that highlighted statement is provided.

In a sub-section titled “What’s happening now?” readers are told that:

“Gaza is ruled by a Palestinian militant group called Hamas, which has fought Israel many times. Israel and Egypt tightly control Gaza’s borders to stop weapons getting to Hamas.” [emphasis added]

Hamas has of course never “fought Israel” in the accepted sense of the term: rather, it is a terror group which targets Israeli civilians. Unsurprisingly the decades of terrorism perpetrated by Hamas and other Palestinian factions against Israeli civilians have no place in this dumbed-down BBC backgrounder.

In the final section of this article readers are shown a video captioned “Gaza: The bullets stop, the burials go on”. That filmed report by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen was first aired in May 2018 and it includes a section narrated by Bowen as follows:

Bowen: “Poverty and grief breed anger. And so do the deaths of children. A family gathered for another funeral. It was for Layla al Ghandour who was eight months old.”

As was noted here at the time:

“The day before this report was aired on BBC One and posted on the website, conflicting accounts of the baby’s death had already emerged with both a Gaza doctor and her father stating that she had a pre-existing medical condition. Nevertheless, the BBC did not edit out that part of Bowen’s report implying that the child’s death was linked to Israel’s response to the incidents along the border.”

Moreover, Hamas subsequently removed the baby’s name from its list of casualties and further information concerning the circumstances of her death later emerged.

Despite those developments, the BBC failed to remove multiple items from its website (available to this day) in which viewers are given to understand that Israel was connected to the baby’s death. BBC Watch therefore submitted a complaint to the BBC on that issue in June 2018 and two months later received a reply concerning some of the items from Sean Moss at the BBC News website which included the following claims:

“1: ‘Gaza begins to bury its dead after deadliest day in years’ (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-44116340).

In this piece we attribute both the baby’s death and the wider figures to the “Hamas-run” health ministry. We don’t mention the cause of death or otherwise draw any specific connection between this death and Israeli action.

2: ‘Gaza: The bullets stop, the burials go on’ (https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-middle-east-44133897/gaza-the-bullets-stop-the-burials-go-on).

Jeremy Bowen does not say that the baby was killed by the army and he leads into this part of his report by saying ‘poverty and grief breed anger – and so do the deaths of children,’ which is true.”

BBC Watch subsequently contacted both the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit and OFCOM, pointing out in regard to the first item that:

“…the report is specifically about Palestinians who died during those “protests” and it is obviously not about Palestinians who coincidentally happened to die for other reasons at the same time. Readers would therefore understandably conclude that the baby was among those “killed on Monday when Israeli troops opened fire” and Moss’ claim that “We don’t…draw any specific connection between this death and Israeli action” is inaccurate and disingenuous.”

With regard to Bowen’s report we noted that:

“The synopsis […] states “More funerals have taken place for the Palestinians killed by Israeli troops in Gaza on Monday” and so again obviously viewers would understand that its topic is ‘Palestinians killed by Israeli troops’. Given that and the fact that immediately before showing footage of the funeral of “Layla al Ghandour who was eight months old” Jeremy Bowen had profiled a person described as having been “shot through the eye during the protests”, it is clear that Moss’ claim that “Jeremy Bowen does not say that the baby was killed by the army” is also disingenuous: Bowen did not have to say that because the case had already been signposted.”

To this day BBC Watch has not received a satisfactory response on this serious issue from either the BBC or OFCOM. Now – one year on – we see that the BBC continues to promote the claim that Israel was responsible for the death of a baby in the Gaza Strip in 2018 despite the fact that even Hamas backtracked on that allegation twelve months ago.

Related Articles:

The BBC’s double helping ‘Nakba’ backgrounder

BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part one

BBC ignores removal of Gaza baby from casualty list

BBC continues to disregard developments in Gaza baby story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BBC Two’s ‘One Day in Gaza’ adheres to existing BBC practice

The BBC programme ‘One Day in Gaza’ which was aired on BBC Two on May 13th and on PBS in the US the following day has come under criticism from many commentators due to its mistranslation on at least five separate occasions of the Arabic word ‘Yahud’ – Jew – as ‘Israeli’. As the Jewish News reported:

“The BBC has been accused of “playing down” antisemitism after the Arabic word for Jew was mistranslated to Israeli in the English subtitles for a documentary on Gaza border clashes. […]

Among the Palestinian protesters interviewed, 24-year-old Bader Saleh said in Arabic: “I’m not one for fighting or burning tyres, but when I went I was convinced by it.

“The revolutionary songs, they excite you, they encourage you to rip a Jew’s head off.”

But the English translation of Saleh’s remarks offered by the BBC refers to an “Israeli”, not a “Jew”.

This was just one of at least five instances of the Arabic word for “Jew” (Yahud) being mistranslated to “Israeli” in the subtitles.”

The BBC has responded to the criticism as follows:

“A BBC spokesperson said: “We sought expert advice on the translation before broadcast and we believe the translation of ‘Yehudi’ as ‘Israeli’ in this documentary is both accurate and true to the speakers’ intentions.””

As regular readers will know, the issue of the BBC translating the word ‘Yahud’ as ‘Israeli’ is far from new. When it arose in a report by Jon Donnison in 2013 the then BBC Trust responded to a complaint concerning the mistranslation with the ruling:

“that it was not the case that only a literal translation would have met audience expectation for due accuracy.

that no interpretation of the editorial guidelines requires content producers to make direct word-for-word translations without also taking account of relevant context.”

The issue arose again in July 2015 in a film made by Lyse Doucet.

“A BBC documentary has substituted the word “Israelis” for “Jews” in its translation of interviews with Palestinians, its maker has admitted. […]

The BBC’s chief international correspondent said that Gazan translators had advised her that Palestinian children interviewed on the programme who refer to “the Jews” actually meant Israelis.”

Later the same month, another programme translated the word ‘Yahud’ as ‘soldiers’ but complaints concerning both those programmes were dismissed and the 2013 ruling was cited.  

Around the same time the BBC demonstrated that its choice of translation depends on the speaker in a report concerning a British Conservative party candidate in which audiences were given an accurate translation of the word ‘Yahud’.

However, that repeated mistranslation is far from the only problematic issue in the film ‘One Day in Gaza’.

1) As has been repeatedly noted here ever since the BBC began covering the ‘Great Return March’ fourteen months ago, audiences have never been properly informed of the background to that agitprop and the BBC has repeatedly downplayed the role of Hamas and other terror groups in its organisation and execution. As we reported here over two weeks before the first day of rioting at the border fence:

“The organizers got a green light from Hamas and the PIJ for the march. “The great return march” Facebook page posted a statement from Issam Adwan, head of Hamas’ department of refugee affairs, who emphasized the necessity and importance of the event. He said it was part of the “resistance” and that it was no less important than the “armed struggle.” He also said that the Land Day march would be only the opening move of a comprehensive global operation. […]

Talal Abu Zarifa, senior figure in the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), said the Palestinian organizations had agreed on activities that would be consistent with the objectives of “the great return march.” […] He added that the organizations had agreed to continue mass recruitment, to make Israel responsible [for what happens] and realize the “right of return”.” [emphasis added]

Over a month before this BBC programme was aired the ITIC had published a report on the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’ in which it noted that:

“Hamas quickly took over the reins and took control of the return marches, even before the first march took place, on March 30, 2018.”

Nevertheless, this BBC film misled audiences with the repeated claim that the events were organised by a “grassroots” movement and that terror factions only joined in later on.

01:02 “But in the Palestinian Gaza Strip a grassroots movement planned a different response.”

25:23: “Trump’s announcement that he would move the US embassy to Jerusalem had been the catalyst for peaceful protests at the fence. Organised by a grassroots movement, at first they weren’t aligned with any political or armed groups.”

26:01: “As the protests grew more popular leaders of groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both regarded by Israel as terrorist organisations, started touring the sites and rallying the crowds.”

2) In common with the BBC’s editorial policy over the past year, this film repeatedly described the ‘Great Return March’ as “peaceful demonstrations” and “protests” despite the fact that violent rioting has characterised the events since their outset.

3) Also in line with much previous BBC coverage, this programme gave viewers a distorted account of events which completely ignores the relevant ‘Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act’ passed by the US Congress in 1995.

00:42: “After President Trump’s controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Middle East braced itself for violence.”

4) As is often seen in BBC coverage of the Gaza Strip, this programme repeatedly referred to the health authority in the Gaza Strip without clarifying that it is run by Hamas – one of the organisers of the violent rioting.

40:46: “…Gaza’s health ministry reported that 37 Palestinians had been killed…”

5) The film’s presentation of the topic of Palestinian refugees was simplistic with no challenge presented to claims of “a legal right of return”, no mention of the context of the invasion of the new Israeli state by Arab countries which led to the creation of a refugee population and no reference to the controversial issue of hereditary refugee status.

03:19: “In Gaza 70% of the people are refugees. Their towns and villages lie beyond the fence.”

14:32: “70% of people in Gaza are descendants of refugees – Palestinians who fled or were forced to flee their land when Israel was created in 1948 and captured territory in the war of ’67. Palestinians across the Middle East have long held that they have a legal right of return to what they see as their homeland.”

6) Despite repeated references from interviewees to ‘occupation’, at no point were viewers informed that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip fourteen years ago and that the territory is not ‘occupied’.

37:03: “We’re a politicised people because we’re under occupation.”

7) The film gave viewers a distorted view of how Hamas came to control the Gaza Strip.

06:18: “In 2006 Hamas was elected to power in Gaza and then expelled its rivals.”

The January 2006 election of course did not apply to the Gaza Strip alone – Hamas actually won 74 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Eighteen months later it took over the Gaza Strip in a violent coup.

8) The film went on to give a misleading portrayal of Israeli counter terrorism measures. which failed to clarify that restrictions on the import of goods apply solely to dual-use items which can be used for terrorism purposes.

“In response Israel tightened its blockade on the region citing security concerns and strictly controlling all movement of goods and people in and out of the Gaza Strip. Today the economy is in freefall. More than half of Gaza’s two million inhabitants live in poverty and rely on aid. And they’re prevented from leaving what is one of the most densely populated regions on earth.”

Audiences heard nothing whatsoever of the terror attacks which led to Israel’s declaration of the Gaza Strip as hostile territory in September 2007 and no mention was made of the measures – including border closure – imposed by Egypt.

9) Having been told (09:39) that Hamas is “seen in the West as a terrorist organisation”, viewers later saw a Hamas leader claim that:

27:11 “…it is unfair to describe an organisation resisting occupation as ‘terrorist’. The world needs to reconsider these classifications.”

The film again made no effort to explain to viewers that the Gaza Strip is not occupied and that the speaker was in fact referring to Israel as a whole. Neither was it sufficiently clarified that what was previously described (09:39) as Hamas’ “history of suicide bombings and rocket attacks against the Jewish state” puts it squarely under the ‘working definition’ of terrorism used by the BBC in the past.

10) As readers no doubt recall, after the events of May 14th 2018 Hamas claimed that fifty of the 62 people killed on that day belonged to its organisation and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed three of the dead. That clearly relevant Hamas claim was however only communicated to viewers almost at the end of the film.

01:59: “That day would end with at least 60 Palestinians dead or dying and almost three thousand injured.”

54:29: “By the end of the 14th of May 2018 at least 60 Palestinians were dead or dying and over 2,700 were injured. One Israeli was hurt. Hamas later claimed more than 50 of the dead as their own.”

11) Significantly, the film’s closing moments referred to a “UN investigation” into the events with no clarification of the fact that the report concerned was commissioned by the notoriously biased UNHRC.

12) At 50:50 viewers were shown a sequence of footage purporting to depict what was described by one participant in the rioting as follows:

“…the drone came and started dropping gas.”

Although audiences heard additional references to “gas” together with images of people vomiting and convulsing, they were not informed (as they had been earlier at 22:09 in relation to a different event) that the substance was tear gas and were hence likely to go away with inaccurate impressions concerning its nature.

Towards the end of this film audiences saw a Hamas official give a view of the events of May 14th 2018 which sums up Hamas’ overall strategy concerning the ‘Great Return March’.

56:14: “We didn’t expect the occupation to kill so many people, but we always said: if the occupation does that, then it will embarrass itself in front of the world and show its true face.”

Even before the ‘Great Return March’ events began their organisers described their aim as being to stage events “that the whole world and media outlets would watch”. As we see, the BBC’s latest contribution to that PR campaign by Hamas and additional terror factions in the Gaza Strip comes in the form of this hour-long film by Olly Lambert which – despite the promotional claim that it “reveals extraordinary new details of what happened” – actually did nothing of the sort but stayed well within the boundaries of existing BBC framing of this story.

Related Articles:

BBC Trust ESC rules: no requirement to translate accurately

BBC doubles down on its creative translation of ‘Yahud’

BBC does know how to translate ‘Yahud’ – when it is said in the UK

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

The BBC’s ‘Great Return March’ great disappearing act

 

BBC’s Plett Usher continues to promote her Israel narratives

In December 2017 the BBC News website published an article titled “Trumplomacy: Key takeaways from Jerusalem policy shift“. In March 2019 the BBC News website published an article titled “Trumplomacy on Golan Heights: What it all means”.  

The latest article in the ‘Trumplomacy’ genre by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent Barbara Plett Usher appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on April 12th under the headline “Trumplomacy: Where are things at with the Mideast peace plan?”. [emphasis in bold added]

The main image illustrating the article is captioned “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) recently became the first high-ranking US official to visit Jerusalem’s Western Wall last month”. In fact previous American visitors to the site have included the US President, Vice-President and former UN ambassador.

Although Israel’s president will only begin meeting with representatives of the lists which won seats in the Knesset in last week’s election on April 15th in order to hear their recommendations for the candidate who should be tasked with forming the next government and that person will then have 28 days in which to do so (with the possibility of a two-week extension), Plett Usher already ‘knows’ what sort of new government Israel will have:

“With a newly elected right-wing government taking shape in Israel this is a good time to check in on the status of the Trump administration’s peace plan.”

Under the sub-heading “How has the [US] policy changed?” Plett Usher instructs readers to:

“Remember that the formula for peace negotiations has been: two states based on the borders of Arab territory seized by Israel in the 1967 war, with mutually agreed land swaps; sufficient security arrangements; a just solution for Palestinian refugees; and negotiations to settle the fate of Jerusalem, the occupied eastern part of which Palestinians claim as their capital.”

While Plett Usher does not specify the source of her “the formula for peace negotiations”, her description is apparently based on non-binding UN General Assembly resolutions such as 3236 and/or the extinct 2003 Quartet road map.

Interestingly, Plett Usher does not bother to inform her readers that the Oslo Accords – the one agreement which resulted from actual negotiations between Israel and the PLO – did not specify the two-state solution as “the formula”.

Significantly, while portraying the “fate of Jerusalem” as the sole issue to be resolved in negotiations, Plett Usher fails to inform audiences that under the terms of the Oslo Accords, other topics she portrays as ‘givens’ – borders, refugees and settlements – are also to be resolved in permanent status negotiations.

Instead Plett Usher promotes the false notion of pre-1967 “borders”, failing to clarify that those were actually armistice lines which were specifically defined in the 1949 Armistice Agreement as not being borders. Equally revealing is Plett Usher’s description of land assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland which was belligerently occupied by Jordan and Egypt in 1948 as “Arab territory” and her prior reference to “the occupied Palestinian West Bank”.

In other words Barbara Plett Usher has unquestioningly adopted and promoted the PLO’s stance on that issue.  She goes on:

“But the White House has declared that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, cut funds to the UN agency that looks after Palestinian refugees, and accepted Israel’s unilateral annexation of other occupied territory, the Golan Heights.”

A journalist with integrity would clarify that the US announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city specifically stated that – in contrast to the impression Plett Usher is trying to create – it had no bearing on negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Today’s actions—recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing the relocation of our embassy—do not reflect a departure from the strong commitment of the United States to facilitating a lasting peace agreement. The United States continues to take no position on any final status issues. The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties. The United States is not taking a position on boundaries or borders.”

And if bringing up the topic of cuts in US funding to UNRWA, a journalist devoted to informing readers would also have explained the background to that decision, the controversies surrounding that UN agency and the broader issue of Palestinian refugees.

Going on to reference the anti-Israel BDS campaign, Plett Usher likewise fails to inform readers of that campaign’s aims, thereby denying them the ability to judge the statement she paraphrases.

“The state department’s new envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Elan Carr, has reinforced this Israeli narrative in US policy.

He told us that boycotting goods made in Jewish West Bank settlements was anti-Semitic, even though the settlements are illegal under international law and have expanded to such a degree many question whether a Palestinian state is still viable.”

Plett Usher then bolsters her article’s core messaging to readers with a quote sourced from an organisation she once again signposts as “liberal”.

“The administration’s embrace of the Israeli government’s right-wing positions has alarmed liberal American Jewish organizations.

“What they’ve done so far tells you what they intend to lay out,” says Jeremy Ben-Ami of the J Street lobby group. “They have no intention to lay out what could conceivably resolve the conflict. Instead they will tie American government positions to those of the farthest right of Israel’s political spectrum.””

In her final section – sub-headed “What about the Palestinian reaction?” – Plett Usher qualifies the description of people convicted of violent attacks against Israelis.

“Mr Abbas is very unpopular. But on a recent trip to Jerusalem I was told anecdotally that Palestinians have at least given him credit for standing firm on their three core issues: Jerusalem, refugees and maintaining funds to Palestinian prisoners – whom the Israelis regard as terrorists – despite financial pressure.”

Although the US administration’s proposal has yet to be revealed, the Palestinian Authority has already made its rejection of it amply clear. Nevertheless Barbara Plett Usher’s aim in this article is to convince BBC audiences that when it does appear, that plan is destined to fail because it ‘embraces’ the positions of “the farthest right of Israel’s political spectrum” rather than because the Palestinians have made it a non-starter.

While Plett Usher’s promotion of that narrative comes as no surprise, it is unfortunate that BBC audiences continue to be fed commentary which does little to enhance their understanding of this and additional topics from a person whose impartiality on issues relating to Israel has long been in plain sight.

Related Articles:

Palestinian falsehoods on Christianity amplified by BBC’s Plett Usher

Partial portrayals of international law in three BBC reports

BBC News framing of Iranian activity in Syria continues

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ messaging reflects that of anti-Israel group

BBC report that breached impartiality rules still intact online 12 years on

NY Times Errs on Oslo and Two-State Solution (CAMERA)

 

 

 

 

 

BBC WS radio tries to do Arab-Israeli conflict demographics

During her recent visit to Jerusalem the BBC’s Zeinab Badawi found time to produce a report for the BBC World Service radio edition of the programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent’.

Aired on March 10th, the item was described in the programme’s synopsis as follows:

“Zeinab Badawi’s been to Jerusalem – and heard from carers and parents at a mixed pre-school where Palestinian and Jewish children grow up together and learn to talk out their differences.”

However the introduction (from 06:59 here) given by host Pascale Harter went beyond the topic of Badawi’s afternoon at the YMCA’s bilingual Peace pre-school, with listeners steered towards the facile and downright false view that the only obstacle to “peace in the Middle East” is the Arab-Israeli conflict. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Harter: “Peace in the Middle East is a dream which diplomats have struggled to make a reality for decades now. The question of how Israelis and Palestinians can best live together has tormented the world. With so much bitterness and suffering inherited from the past, how does one begin to sow the seeds for peace in the future? Even though it’s small, one initiative Zeinab Badawi visited recently in Jerusalem is not to be dismissed.”

In among her portrayal of the Jerusalem pre-school, Badawi also chose to give listeners a superficial portrayal of the topic of demographics.

Badawi: “Having a baby in Israel is strongly encouraged by the authorities. There are all sorts of tax incentives and other benefits for new mothers. And the more children you have, the more the benefits accrue.”

Indeed Israeli parents are eligible for tax credits and child allowances similar to some of those received by parents in the UK. Whether or not Zeinab Badawi believes that the British government also “strongly” encourages people to have children by means of such financial benefits is unclear but she does not appear to have considered the possibility that the governments of many countries similarly support their citizens’ life choices. She went on:

Badawi: “Fertility treatment like IVF is made easily available, even to same-sex couples.”

Israel does indeed lead the world in IVF treatment. Badawi however neglected to point out that the treatment – like the financial benefits – is of course available to all eligible Israeli citizens regardless of religion or ethnicity. She went on to present her main point:

Badawi: “The demographics of Israel and the occupied territories feed directly into the debate about the future. The Jewish population in these lands is about six and a half million, with an equivalent number of Palestinians.”

At the end of 2018 the population of Israel was made up of 6,668,000 Jews, 1,878,000 Arabs and 426,000 others. The most recent figures (2017) from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics cite a population of 4,952,168 in the PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip while the CIA Factbook suggests a lower figure. In other words, in order to present her portrayal of “equivalent” numbers of Jews and Palestinians in “these lands”, Badawi has added the entire Israeli Arab population to the Palestinian population, regardless of whether they identify as such or not.

Making no effort to explain the obviously relevant issue of the hereditary refugee status given to descendants of Palestinian refugees, Badawi went on:

Badawi: “If you add the Palestinian refugee population in neighbouring countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Syria then even by the lowest estimates the Israeli view is that any right of return for these people would pose a threat to Israel because Palestinians would far outnumber Jews. The birth rate is still high by global standards among both Jews and Palestinians here. In my afternoon at the Peace pre-school I spotted no fewer than four pregnant women.”

Notably, Badawi refrained from clarifying that the core aim of the demand for ‘right of return’ is to eliminate the Jewish state and that such a move would also eliminate the two-state solution that is supported by the international community.

And so, what BBC World Service radio audiences heard in Zeinab Badawi’s account of her brief visit to Jerusalem was in fact a context-free, simplistic and predictably jejune portrayal of a complex conflict which contributed nothing to audience understanding of the issue.

Mapping changes in BBC reporting of Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’

In July 2013 the BBC News website produced a backgrounder intended to inform audiences about what it considered to be the five “Core Issues” of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians: Jerusalem, borders, settlements, refugees and security. Although that backgrounder is no longer available online in its original form, in a section titled ‘refugees’ the Palestinian position was presented thus:

“Formally, they maintain the “right of return”, arguing that without it a great injustice would not be put right. However, there has been regular talk among Palestinians that this “right” could be met by compensation.” 

In other words, the BBC presented the Palestinian demand for the ‘right of return’ for refugees as a formality and steered audiences towards the view that the issue would be resolved on a practical level by means of compensation.

Over the past nine months, however, audiences have seen changes in the BBC’s presentation of that topic – primarily but not exclusively in reporting on the ‘Great Return March’ events.

In the BBC News website’s first report on those events on March 30th audiences were told that:

“Palestinians have long demanded their right to return but Israel says they should settle in a future Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank.”

The following day visitors to the BBC News website were told that:

“Hundreds were wounded at the start of protests demanding a right for Palestinians to return to former family homes in what is now Israel. […]

The aim of the protest is to assert what Palestinians regard as their right to return to towns and villages from which their families fled, or were driven out, when the state of Israel was created in 1948.”

Listeners to BBC radio 4 on March 30th heard that “Thousands of demonstrators gathered for the start of a six-week campaign for the right to return to homes that are now in Israel” and that “The demonstrators said they wanted to send a clear message that they have a right to return to what used to be Palestinian land: one of the major issues of contention in the Middle East conflict.” [emphasis in bold added]

That programme highlighted one of several issues seen BBC reporting on this topic: the corporation’s failure to challenge deliberate misrepresentation of UN GA resolution 194 by Palestinian interviewees.

On the same day listeners to BBC World Service radio were told that “Thousands of Palestinians massed today in what is the start of weeks of protest to demand that refugees be allowed to return to their homes in what is now Israel” along with yet more misrepresentation of UN GA resolution 194.

However, in early April BBC audiences began to see the use of a new phrase: ‘ancestral lands’. [emphasis in bold added]

“The protesters are demanding that refugees be allowed to return to ancestral lands that are now in Israel.” BBC News website, April 6th 2018

As was noted here at the time:

“One may have thought that BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality would have prompted the use of terminology such as “what Palestinians see as their ancestral lands” (particularly seeing as only two years of residency in Mandate Palestine is required to meet the UN definition of refugee) but that was not the case…”

Additional examples of the cross-platform use of that and similar terminology – which is too widespread to be explained by anything other than an editorial decision – include the following:

“The protesters are demanding that refugees be allowed to return to ancestral lands that are now in Israel…” BBC Radio 4, April 6th 2018

“…in similar protests last Friday in support of the demand that Palestinian refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel…” BBC World Service radio, April 6th 2018

“Protesters want refugees to be allowed to return to ancestral land now in Israel.” BBC News website, April 13th 2018

“Palestinians want the right to return to their ancestral homes which are now in Israeli territory.” BBC World Service radio, May 9th 2018

“The demonstrations have seen thousands of Palestinians mass on the border in support of the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.” BBC News website, June 20th 2018

“…mass demonstrations along the border, at which thousands of Palestinians have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel…” BBC News website, July 17th 2018

“…thousands of Palestinians have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.” BBC News website, August 7th 2018

“…protests along the Gaza-Israel border at which thousands have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.” BBC News website, August 15th 2018

“The protest campaign expresses support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.” BBC News website, August 28th 2018

“The protests began with a demand for Palestinians to return to their ancestral land that now lies in Israel…” BBC News website, October 1st 2018

“The protesters are demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt and the right to return to Palestinans’ ancestral land which now lies inside Israel.” BBC Radio 4, October 12th 2018

“The protests, orchestrated by the territory’s militant Hamas rulers, are held in support of the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.” BBC News website, October 25th 2018

“The demonstrations began in March over a declared Palestinian right to return to ancestral homelands from the blockaded Strip.” BBC Radio 4, November 23rd 2018

The term “ancestral land” is of course  often used in reference to lands belonging to an indigenous cultural people or community as well as in connection to the place of origin of previous generations. The BBC’s widespread introduction of the non-neutral terms “ancestral lands”, “ancestral homes” and “ancestral homelands” over the past nine months into multiple platform reporting on the topic of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ is hence particularly noteworthy – and all the more so given that audiences were serially denied important background information in the same reports.

Audiences were not provided with adequate context concerning the circumstances under which some of the Arabs living in the area in 1948 became refugees – and not least the fact that the process began because neighbouring Arab states chose to initiate a war intended to eradicate the emerging Jewish state.

None of the BBC’s reports informed audiences that UN GA resolution 194 is non-binding, that it does not specifically relate to Palestinian refugees (despite long-standing BBC claims to that effect) and – contrary to often heard assertions – neither does it grant any unconditional ‘right of return’.

Equally notable is the BBC’s failure in the majority of its reports to adequately explain to audiences why Israel cannot countenance the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ and the failure to clarify that the aim of that demand is to threaten the existence of Israel as the Jewish state.

“The Israeli government has long ruled out any right of return…” BBC News website, April 6th 2018

“Israel rejects that demand, saying that it is a threat to its Jewish majority.” BBC World Service radio, May 9th 2018

“Israel says it cannot allow five million refugees to return because this would overwhelm the country of 8.5 million and mean the end of its existence as a Jewish state.” BBC News website, May 15th 2018

“They have very much kept alive this hope of returning back to land which now is inside Israel – something which both Israel and the United States say is unrealistic…” BBC World Service radio, September 1st 2018

Significantly, no effort has been made over the past nine months to explain to BBC audiences that the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ is at odds with the two-state solution proposal which the BBC has repeatedly told its audiences in the past is the “declared goal” of “the international community”. 

Related Articles:

The BBC’s double helping ‘Nakba’ backgrounder

BACKGROUNDER: The Palestinian Claim to a “Right of Return” (CAMERA)

 

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The BBC’s Gaza framing evolves with Jon Donnison

The December 17th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included a thirteen-minute item which made use of part of Mishal Husain’s broadcast from the Gaza Strip that listeners to BBC Radio 4 had heard earlier in the day.

Presenter Jon Donnison introduced that item (from 30:06 here) using framing identical to that previously heard in the Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Donnison: “Gaza’s economic statistics make for grim reading. According to the World Bank 54% of the labour force in the tiny Palestinian territory is unemployed. The figure goes up to 70% for youth unemployment. Around eight out of every ten Gazans are dependent on food aid and around half of Gaza’s population of around 2 million people are registered refugees. Well today the UN is launching an appeal to raise $350 million for Palestinian refugees who it says are in dire humanitarian need. It comes after the United States cut hundreds of millions of dollars of UN funding destined for Palestinians. The economy’s been impacted by a blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt – they say for their security – and incomes have also been affected by Palestinian Authority sanctions on Hamas, the movement which has been in power in Gaza since 2007. Well the BBC’s Mishal Husain visited one of the refugee camps with Matthias Schmale, head of Gaza operations for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.”

Contrary to Donnison’s claim, the UN appeal for $350 million does not specify “Palestinian refugees” as the beneficiaries.

Listeners then heard Mishal Husain’s ‘Shati walkabout’ interview with Matthias Schmale which did not include any challenge whatsoever to UNRWA’s politicised messaging or any background information concerning that organisation and its mission, Hamas’ financial prioritisation of terrorism over civilian welfare and the effects of the Hamas-Fatah dispute on the Gaza Strip’s economy.

At 36:57 Jon Donnison then introduced an interviewee whose participation was obviously intended to reinforce the BBC’s highly selective framing of the ‘Gaza economic crisis’ story.

Donnison: “Well Sharren Haskel is a member of the Knesset – Israel’s parliament. She’s with the governing Likud party and also sits on the foreign affairs and defence committee. […] Ehm, first of all, how has Israel and Israeli citizen benefited from this blockade?”

Haskel: “Well you know your report actually brings out something that’s quite concerning because it’s very easy – and this is something that’s being repeated time after time – to sort of blame Israel for all the problems. But it’s really sort of letting Hamas off the hook…”

Donnison [interrupts]: “Well we heard…we heard the UN chap there being quite critical of Hamas. I’m asking you how has Israel…how has this blockade helped Israel’s citizens over the past 12 years?”

As Haskel spoke about Hamas’ investment of funding in cross-border tunnels and weapons rather than infrastructure and social services for the citizens of the Gaza Strip, Donnison interrupted her again.

Donnison: “No but you’ve…you’ve made…you’ve made that point several times so I’ll ask you a third time – how has the blockade helped Israelis, particularly those living on the border? Because it hasn’t worked, has it? It hasn’t made them safer. We’ve had three wars in the past 12 years. Thousands and thousands of rockets coming out of Gaza – they’re still coming out. You’d acknowledge that. It’s not worked, has it?”

Haskel: “Well to be honest this is not a blockade. You have Gaza and you have an independent entity. So they really have an autonomy to dictate their own future. They could have turned Gaza into a Singapore. They…”

Donnison [interrupts]: “Yeah, yeah, you’ve made that…you’ve made that point. My point is that as…as you know Israel probably needs to be looking at alternatives to the blockade which isn’t working, is it?”

As is all too frequently documented here, the BBC serially avoids stories which would provide its audiences with understanding of why Israel’s counter-terrorism measures are necessary – for example:

BBC News again ignores abuse of Israeli humanitarian aid to Gaza

BBC ignores another story explaining the need for Gaza border restrictions

Documenting the BBC’s continuing silence on Gaza smuggling

BBC waives another chance to explain why Gaza’s naval blockade exists

BBC News passes up chance to explain why Israeli counter-terrorism measures exist

Had the BBC reported those stories and countless others, Donnison would of course not have been able to promote his facile and obviously politically motivated ‘blockade isn’t working’ theme quite so easily.  

After Haskel had noted the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip, the exit of people, the electricity supplied to Gaza by Israel and other humanitarian efforts, she observed that Egypt’s counter-terrorism measures do not garner the same criticism as Israel’s measures. Donnison interrupted with the following snide remark:

Donnison: “Well I’m speaking to you, aren’t I?”

As Haskel explained the background to Egypt’s policy and the efforts made by Israel to balance humanitarian aid with security, Donnison interrupted her yet again.

Donnison: “There are…there are many Palestinians in Gaza…there are many Palestinians in Gaza – possibly the majority – who are sick and tired of Hamas. But some would say that you are doing little to help ordinary Palestinians. The UN says you are in effect collectively punishing them.”

Listeners were not provided with any evidence to support Donnison’s claim that “many” Gazans and even “possibly a majority” are dissatisfied with Hamas. Haskel pointed out that if that is the case, then it is the residents of the Gaza Strip who have to do something about it.

Donnison: “Did you welcome the US cutting of funding to the UN refugee agency? Did you think that was helpful?”

Haskel replied that she did think it was helpful and began talking about another topic which the BBC serially avoids: Hamas’ manipulation of UNRWA. Donnison promptly interrupted her yet again.

Donnison: “Well can I just…can I just quote you the former IDF spokesperson Peter Lerner saying ‘Less American aid to Palestinians means more violence against Israelis. It isn’t in Israel’s interest.'”

Donnison of course did not bother to inform listeners that in that same Ha’aretz opinion piece, Lerner also highlighted UNRWA’s “many problems, including its politics, determined since 1949 by their one-sided mandate” and the fact that “Palestinian refugee camps have been hotbeds for terrorist activities”: additional topics studiously avoided by the BBC.

Indeed, when Sharren Haskel began talking about the glorification of terrorism in UNRWA school books and the fact that international funding “is going into perpetuating violence and hatred”, Donnison interrupted her twice and closed the interview.

While Jon Donnison’s Middle East politics have never been much of a secret, it is worth noting that the BBC’s framing of its much promoted ‘Gaza economic crisis’ story has now evolved from the notion that the “deplorable” situation in the Gaza Strip is essentially the result of the “blockade” imposed by Israel and Egypt to the notion that the “deplorable” situation in the Gaza Strip is essentially the result of a “blockade” imposed by Israel that “hasn’t worked” and is hence – by implication – unjustified.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

Revisiting a 2014 BBC report by Jon Donnison

Revisiting a five year-old BBC story

Jon Donnison’s breach of BBC editorial standards unravels

BBC’s Jon Donnison breaches editorial guidelines in straw-clutching Tweet

 

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

In two previous posts concerning the December 17th ‘Today’ programme live broadcast from the Gaza Strip (here and here) we saw how well-worn BBC themes were promoted in that programme.

In a third ten minute-long segment (from 1:16:27 here) listeners once again heard from representatives of international organisations rather than the “people on both sides of the divide” as promised by presenter Mishal Husain.

The two themes of blaming the economic and humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip on counter-terrorism measures employed by Israel (with a cursory mention of Egypt) and providing unquestioning and context-free promotion of UNRWA were repeated in that segment too.

Husain began with misrepresentation of a press release put out by UNOCHA, claiming that its appeal for funding is intended to provide aid to the entire population of the Gaza Strip. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “As the United Nations appeals for funds to support 2 million Palestinians who live here [Gaza] saying that living conditions are deplorable, the UK has today pledged £5 million in emergency food aid.”

The UNOCHA statement actually describes the scope of its appeal thus:

“The 2019 HRP appeals for $350 million to provide basic food, protection, health care, shelter, water and sanitation to 1.4 million Palestinians, who have been identified as most in need of humanitarian interventions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”

In other words, Husain once again misled BBC audiences by claiming that all 2 million residents of the Gaza Strip are in need of foreign aid. She continued with repetition of previously heard messaging.

Husain: “But the dire economic reality is taking immense toll on people’s lives. Unemployment is at 50%. Even those who have jobs often receive only half their salary. The economy has been impacted by a blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt citing security reasons. Incomes have also been affected by Palestinian Authority sanctions on Hamas which has been in full control of Gaza since 2007. In recent weeks aid from Qatar has been making a difference but it will only last till April.”

As was the case in the first hour of the programme, listeners were told nothing of the Hamas terrorism which has made counter-terrorism measures in the form of restrictions on the movement of people and dual-use goods necessary. Once again the very relevant issue of Hamas’ prioritisation of terrorism over the well-being of Gaza’s civilian population went unmentioned. Likewise the topic of “Palestinian Authority sanctions on Hamas” was not expanded and so listeners were unable to comprehend what aspects of the situation in the Gaza Strip (e.g. electricity shortages, shortages of medicines, unpaid wages) have been brought about by internal Palestinian disputes rather than by Israeli actions.

Husain similarly failed to tell listeners why there are still Palestinian refugees in a place that has been ruled by Palestinians for over 13 years before re-introducing her next guest.

Husain: “More than half of Gaza’s population are registered refugees and Matthias Schmale – head of Gaza operations for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – took me to see one of the eight camps in this small stretch of land.”

During Husain’s walkabout with Schmale listeners heard that “more than 90% of the population don’t have access to safe drinking water” and that “the desalination system in Gaza has broken down” because of “electricity”. No effort was made to clarify the full background to those statements or to explain that – as the BBC knows – the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip (and resulting problems with water and sewage) has nothing to do with “the blockade”.

Listeners heard more repetition of this programme’s prime messaging.

Husain: “When you say that people are living in poverty, why is that?”

Schmale: “The answer to that is twelve years of blockade. We live in a place that is very small; 40 kms by 6 to 12 kms in width and there’s almost 2 million people living in this constrained space and it’s completely sealed off from the rest of the world.”

Husain: “Hamas is governing Gaza. Shouldn’t it be providing for people here rather than you?”

Schmale: “Yes, I think the responsibility of host authorities is to cater to essentials – provide essential services like electricity, like water, like proper sewage and I think the fact that much of that is non-functional is a reflection of ten years of failed government by the Hamas authorities.”

That of course would have been the ideal moment for Mishal Husain to explain to listeners how Hamas has spent millions of dollars on the construction of cross-border attack tunnels and other terror infrastructure but instead listeners heard about “warm winter sunshine”. Husain likewise avoided the highly relevant topic of Hamas terrorism in the part of her conversation with Schmale concerning fishing.

Husain: “There’s a young man I can see in a small boat just beneath us by the water’s edge. What about fishing? Can people make a living from fishing?”

Schmale: “One of the constant debates with Israel is the fishing zone because in order to fish for safe fish that are not contaminated by the water we see coming out of that pipe you need to be a distance out and they say…”

Husain: “How far are they allowed to go out?”

Schmale: “At the moment 3 miles and 3 miles is not enough.”

Husain then did another pointless tick of the impartiality box which contributed nothing to audience understanding.

Husain: “Israel says the blockade is maintained for security reasons and indeed Egypt also blockades on Gaza’s other border.”

Husain and Schmale visited an UNRWA food distribution centre in the Shati refugee camp.

Schmale: “About 60% of the million people that get food from us [are] living with abject poverty as we call it. That means on about a dollar – just a bit more than a dollar – a day. So about 600 thousand people really depend on this food. They would not survive if they didn’t have this.” […]

Husain: “Who pays for all of this food?”

Schmale: “The biggest donor until the beginning of this year was the United States. For Gaza we need roughly $110 million per year. Last year – 2017 – we got 90 million of 110 million from the United States. 80 million of that was food. As a result of their dramatic cut in the beginning of the year, we ran out of money for this at the end of June. We were only able to continue it and what you’re seeing today because the rest of the organisation [the UN] gave us an advance. We took a loan.” […]

Husain: “So what are you going to do in the long run?”

Schmale: “My hope is that appeals to the international community to prevent Gaza sliding into a Yemen-style situation of massive hunger will be heard.”

Remarkably, listeners were then told that the situation in the Gaza Strip is not connected to armed conflict.

Husain: “You’ve worked all over the world. What do you think of what you see here? How does it compare with what you see elsewhere?”

Schmale: “The disasters I have encountered were either natural – a tsunami, an earthquake – or man-made in terms of war. This is the first time I’m confronted with a humanitarian crisis that is entirely man-made as a result of the blockade. But if people had their own jobs and earned their own money, which they could have, we would not need to do this. Natural disasters are uncontrollable. This is controllable.”

The interview closed with the repetition of a statement from Schmale that had already been heard earlier on in the programme.

Husain: “If there was a different security situation – Israel would say it’s not possible with the current reality, the current stance of Hamas towards it.”

Schmale: “I understand the security argument but I also think that we need to be very careful not to put the entire 2 million population into that basket. You know I would claim that the Israelis know so well what goes on in here and know who the potential people are that would hold a security threat to them. If they wanted to they could with reasonable safety let the peace-loving population go out and earn a living for themselves.”

Once again listeners did not hear any Israeli response to the idea that Gaza residents should and could be allowed to work in Israel “with reasonable safety” – despite the past history of dozens of terror attacks perpetrated by workers from the Gaza Strip.

With UNRWA’s politicised messaging having gone completely unchallenged and with no effort having been made to provide vital background information concerning that organisation and its mission, Hamas terrorism, Hamas’ financial prioritisation of terrorism over civilian welfare and the Hamas-Fatah split, Husain then handed over to the BBC’s economic correspondent who – as we shall see in the next post – interviewed yet another person who does not fall into the “ordinary people” category.  

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

One to listen out for tomorrow on BBC Radio 4

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

 

 

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, one of the themes promoted during the first fourteen minutes of a live broadcast from the Gaza Strip in the December 17th edition of the ‘Today’ programme was the claim that the “deplorable” situation in the Gaza Strip is essentially the result of the “blockade” imposed by Israel and Egypt. 

An additional theme which is not new to BBC reporting and was again promoted in this broadcast is that of US cuts in donations to UNRWA – but, as ever, without any explanation of the issues at the root of the long-standing debate surrounding the UN agency that are vital to proper understanding of that story.

The second part of the ‘Today’ programme’s live broadcast from the Gaza Strip (from 36:07 here) was introduced by Mishal Husain with a reference to an announcement from the UK government mentioned earlier by the BBC’s economics correspondent Darshini David. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “The government has announced £5 million worth of emergency food aid for Palestinians in Gaza as the UN appeals for funds to prevent 2 million people who live here slipping deeper into poverty.”

In contrast to Husain’s claim that all two million residents of the Gaza Strip are living in poverty, the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs reported in June of this year that 53% of the territory’s residents were actually defined as such. Husain then introduced her Jerusalem based colleague Yolande Knell.

Husain: “The economic position in Gaza has long been dire, Yolande, is international concern now growing?”

Knell: “It does seem to be and there is this report that’s been published by the UN humanitarian office here talking about how there are deepening needs among Palestinians. But what’s really interesting is the fact it’s launching this appeal for $350 million today for humanitarian relief for Palestinians but it says that it’s actually targeting fewer people – half a million fewer – than it targeted here just in this last year. And the report is very frank about how it is because of record low funding and of course over the past year what’s happened is the US has slashed its funding to the Palestinians including to the UN agency that provides services to 5 million refugees across the Middle East. It has promised $365 million but ended up paying just $60 million and on top of that it cut aid – 200 million – to development projects. And that really links to this other announcement that we’re seeing this morning from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – UNRWA – where the UK’s Department for International Development saying it’s going to give this money – £5 million – to provide emergency food to over 60,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza at risk of hunger.”

Later on in the same programme (2:06:21 here) listeners heard a news bulletin which also included a report from Knell.

Newsreader: “The United Nations is launching an appeal to raise £280 million for people living in the Palestinian territories. It says that many are in critical humanitarian need after a big drop in funding from the United States. Here’s our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell.”

Knell: “This report describes a worsening situation in the Palestinian territories. In Gaza health services have been overwhelmed by casualties from protests along the perimeter fence with Israel. But the UN humanitarian affairs office says that next year it will target just 1.4 million people here – half a million fewer than this year. Its local head points to record low funding and what he calls attacks to delegitimise humanitarian action. This year as tensions grew with Palestinian leaders, Washington cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for development and for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. Through an emergency appeal much of UNRWA’s deficit has been filled and today the UK says it will provide new funds for over 60,000 refugees in Gaza at risk of hunger.”

The UNOCHA press release on which this news item is based can be seen here.

As is usual in BBC content we see uncritical amplification of UN claims and campaigns with no effort made to provide audiences with background information concerning questions such as why there are “5 million [Palestinian] refugees across the Middle East”, why people living under the rule of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are still classified as refugees or what were the reasons behind the US administration’s decision to cut donations to UNRWA.

Entirely predictably Yolande Knell’s reporting failed to inform BBC audiences that the sum cited in the appeal launched by UNOCHA and the PA’s Minister for Social Development (who Knell apparently ‘forgot’ to mention) is similar to that allocated by the Palestinian Authority in its 2018 budget to payments to convicted terrorists and terrorists’ families. As PMW points out:

“Instead of the UN asking donor countries to contribute $350 million to provide for Palestinian humanitarian needs, the UN should be joining the unequivocal call from many governments that the PA immediately stop squandering the $355 million dollars of its own funds on its “Pay for Slay” policy that incentivizes and rewards terrorism, and instead spend that money on needy Palestinians.

Were the UN to adopt this basic and elementary moral requirement, it would strengthen the international forces that are mobilizing against the PA’s terror support.  

Abolishing the “Pay for Slay” policy would re-open the door for the PA to receive the approximately $215 million dollars of US aid to the PA withheld by the Taylor Force Act. Abolishing the PA’s “Pay for Slay” policy would also avert the imminent deduction by Israel of the PA’s expenditure on the salary program from the tax revenues Israel collects and transfers to the PA. Moreover, it would ensure that the PA would not lose its Australian funding and part of its funding from The Netherlands.”

The story told to BBC Radio 4 audiences, however, excludes any mention of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas shared priority of funding and rewarding terror over meeting the needs of their people. Instead Yolande Knell and her colleagues prefer to promote a simplistic story about poor, hungry Palestinians.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

One to listen out for tomorrow on BBC Radio 4

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

As previously mentioned, the December 17th edition of the ‘Today’ programme aired on the BBC’s domestic radio station Radio 4 was split between live broadcasts from London and the Gaza Strip. Over 40% of the programme’s airtime was devoted to the latter in various segments available here. (00:28 to 01:38, 09:35 to 24:20, 36:07 to 39:40, 47:53 to 57:25, 1:16:27 to 1:26:40, 1:34:15 to 1:44:00, 2:06:21 to 2:07:25, 2:10:13 to 2:23:30, 2:40:34 to 2:51:10 and 2:56:33 to 2:59:55)

Mishal Husain’s introduction to the broadcast (00:28 to 01:38) included the following explanation as to why the publicly funded domestic BBC radio station sent a reporter and crew all the way to the Gaza Strip despite having permanent staff both there and in nearby Jerusalem. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “And we’re broadcasting from Gaza this morning because this has been a year which has seen tension and violence flare up again between Gaza and Israel. There have been months of protests at the boundary between the two and I’ve been talking to people on both sides of the divide.”

As regular readers know, since the BBC began covering the ‘Great Return March’ events at the end of March the BBC has failed to provide its audiences with a clear and comprehensive explanation of who initiated, organised and facilitated that publicity stunt, even though the information was available before it began and despite its British connections. For the past nine months BBC audiences have seen that violent rioting repeatedly portrayed as ‘protests’ and ‘peaceful demonstrations’ despite the terror attacks and border infiltrations that have taken place under the ‘Great Return March’ banner.

That editorial policy was also evident in this broadcast (notwithstanding an occasional ‘Israel says’ scrap tossed in the direction of impartiality requirements) and additional themes that have long been featured in BBC reporting were also evident.

One of the main themes promoted in this broadcast was the idea that the “deplorable” situation in the Gaza Strip is essentially the result of the “blockade” imposed by Israel and Egypt. However in seventy-five minutes of reporting from the Gaza Strip, Radio 4 audiences did not hear Mishal Husain utter the word terrorism even once and neither did they hear anything of Hamas’ use of funds and resources (including building materials) for the purposes of terrorism at the expense of the civilian community.

Husain began (09:35 to 24:20) with a review of one Israeli newspaper two Hamas-linked Gaza Strip papers, noting coverage of “the rally that took place here yesterday where supporters marked the 31st anniversary of Hamas”. She did not bother to inform listeners of the pertinent fact that Hamas reportedly spent over half a million dollars on that rally.

Husain: “Well Gaza is a place that the UN said six years ago could be unlivable by 2020. Today they’re warning that two million people who live here are slipping deeper into poverty because of what they’re calling deplorable living conditions. The blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt – they say for security reasons – is a major factor. Matthias Schmale who’s head of Gaza operations for UNRWA – the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – has told us that needs to change.”

Husain of course did not bother to ask Matthias Schmale to explain to her listeners why there are still people classified as refugees in a place that has been under Palestinian control for over 13 years.

Schmale: “I understand the security argument but I also think that we need to be very careful not to put the entire 2 million population into that basket. You know I would claim that the Israelis know so well what goes on in here and know who the potential people are that would hold a security threat to them. If they wanted to they could with reasonable safety let the peace-loving population go out and earn a living for themselves.”

Listeners were not told that nearly a quarter of the population of the Gaza Strip attended that Hamas rally the previous day and neither did they hear any Israeli response to the idea that Gaza residents should and could be allowed to work in Israel “with reasonable safety” – despite the past history of dozens of terror attacks perpetrated by workers from the Gaza Strip.

Having just promoted the views of one interviewee who does not fall into the category of ‘ordinary people’ – and with more to come – Husain went on to make the following claim:

Husain: “Well we’re going to be hearing throughout the programme this morning not from politicians but from individuals and families experiencing the reality both of Gaza and of life in southern Israel where there are bomb shelters next to bus stops and in playgrounds and in every home.”

After listeners had heard clips from interviews with Israelis and Gaza residents that were repeated in full later on in the broadcast, Husain continued:

Husain: “Well more now on how the economy has been affected here in Gaza in recent years –something that I’ve been seeing first hand over the last few days.”

Notably listeners heard nothing throughout the entire programme concerning the economic effects of Gaza terrorism on businesses, tourism and agriculture southern Israel before Husain handed the item over to the BBC’s economics correspondent Darshini David who continued with promotion of the ‘blockade’ theme.

David: “From what you’ve been hearing there it may or may not surprise you to hear that the World Bank has been warning that the Gaza economy is in free fall – that’s after it contracted by 6% at the start of this year. It says that the impact of that decade long blockade has been compounded by budget cuts from the Palestinian Authority and a reduction in international aid. Four out of five people now rely on food aid. We can reveal this morning that the UK will be giving an extra £5 million in emergency supplies to sixty thousand refugees.”

Once again listeners were not told why there are Palestinian refugees in a place ruled and run by Palestinians. David then went on to introduce another not so ordinary interviewee: the World Bank’s director for the West Bank and Gaza, Marina Wes, clarifying that “she’s also the author of its report”.

Having presented unemployment and poverty statistics and discussed the relevance of “donor money” (but with no mention of Israel’s recent agreement to millions of dollars in cash given by Qatar entering the Gaza Strip), Wes went on to promote the ‘blockade’ theme again.

Wes: “…we also need to start working now on the medium term to put in place an enabling environment that will support jobs for Gaza’s youth and that will enable these youths to really make their own living. Critical to this is to remove the constraints on trade and movement of goods and people. They need to be relaxed otherwise there’s no way a small economy like Gaza can flourish.” 

Neither at this point nor anywhere else in this programme were listeners given factual background information concerning the numbers of people who do exit the Gaza Strip on a daily basis or the amounts of fuel and goods entering the Gaza Strip via Israel.

David: “…can you put any kind of numbers on what kind of difference getting that greater access could mean?”

Wes was unable to answer that question.

David: “…what about security concerns? What kind of impact could that have on the economy as well?”

Wes: “I think relaxing the blockade is going to be critical going forward. There is for instance something called the dual-use list and if there is scope to relax that I think that could have a very large impact on the economy in Gaza.”

As readers may know, “dual-use” (or “dual-purpose”) items – i.e. items which can also be used for the purposes of terrorism – enter the Gaza Strip only in coordination with Israeli security officials in order to ensure that they are used for civilian purposes. When asked to explain that term, Wes went on:

Wes: “So this list puts, highlights, goods that have security concerns – for instance certain tubes. So I told you that there is a severe water crisis in Gaza. So getting pipes into Gaza that could help alleviate this crisis and that would simultaneously also take care of Israeli security concerns would be critical.”

It would of course have been helpful to listeners had they been told at this point of Hamas’ past use of water and sewage pipes to manufacture rockets that were then fired at Israeli civilians but instead David closed the conversation there and went on to introduce her next two interviewees.

David: “Now as we’ve been hearing it’s Gaza’s young who have been particularly hard hit as Marina Wes there was saying. Could they play a key part in turning round the economy? The blockade means they can’t rely on the industries that their parents may have turned to such as fishing or growing strawberries so they are looking at new areas. Gaza Sky Geeks is the Strip’s first tech hub. It was formed after a charity collaborated with Google in 2011.”

In fact – as even Palestinian outlets acknowledge – strawberries are exported annually from the Gaza Strip during the season.

David’s interview with two women from Gaza Sky Geeks included a question concerning electricity and “a stable internet connection”. Listeners were not however informed that the chronic electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip is entirely unconnected to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures.

As we see, in the first fourteen minutes of this broadcast from the Gaza Strip BBC Radio 4 listeners were repeatedly steered towards the view – promoted by two ‘experts’ – that the solution to the economic problems in the Gaza Strip is the lifting or easing of counter-terrorism measures. They did not however hear any serious portrayal of the Hamas terrorism which brought about those measures in the first place and continues to make them necessary. Neither were they given any information concerning the transportation of gas, fuel and goods into the Gaza Strip via Israel or Israel’s supply of electricity to the territory. The highly relevant topic of Hamas’ policy of prioritising terrorism over the needs of Gaza’s civilian population was – unsurprisingly – studiously avoided. 

Additional themes seen in this programme will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

One to listen out for tomorrow on BBC Radio 4

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

 

BBC’s Partition Plan omissions still stand

As was noted on these pages three years ago, the timeline appearing in the BBC’s online Israel profile fails to inform readers that the 1947 UN Partition Plan recommendation (UNGA Resolution 181) was opposed by the Arab States and hence became irrelevant.

The entry for 1947 in the timeline on the BBC News website’s ‘Palestinian Territories’ page tells only part of the story.

Both those entries fail to inform BBC audiences that the recommendation for partition was rejected outright by the Arab States as well as the Arab Higher Committee. The BBC’s portrayals make no mention of the fact that immediately following those rejections, Arab rioting ensued and Arab forces launched what the UN described at the time as “armed incursions” into what was then still Mandate Palestine.

The omission of the fact that hostilities – and with them, displacement of civilians – had in fact begun five and a half months prior to Israel’s declaration of independence is all the more significant because entries that follow in both those timelines tell BBC audiences that “[t]housands of Palestinians were forced out or fled from their homes in the war that followed Israel’s independence”.

As our CAMERA colleague Gilead Ini has noted, the displacement of Palestinian Arabs did not take place – as the BBC would have its audiences believe – only after Israel declared independence on May 14th 1948. [emphasis added]

“Most broadly, the Arab flight can be divided into two time periods corresponding with the two major phases of fighting. Roughly half of those fleeing did so between November 1947 (when Palestinian Arabs responded to the United Nations partition recommendation with anti-Jewish violence) and May 1948 (when the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon invaded Palestine). During this period, the conflict more closely resembled a civil war, with Palestinian Jews battling Palestinian Arabs and several thousand Arab militiamen. A second phase of the fighting and flight occurred after May 1948, when neighboring Arab armies initiated the conventional phase of the war by joining in the fighting on the side of the Palestinians.”

In other words, the BBC continues to airbrush the fact that the displacement of Palestinians came about after Arab leaders elected – at their own admittance – to launch hostilities.

Related Articles:

Backgrounder: Palestinian Arab and Jewish Refugees (CAMERA)

No Partition Plan anniversary coverage from the BBC

How the BBC invented territory ‘allocated’ to a Palestinian state