When the BBC News website reported an enduring conflict without a narrative

In addition to covering the conference on the topic of the Arab-Israeli conflict held in Paris earlier this month, the BBC News website also reported on talks, held in Geneva, relating to another long-standing conflict.cyprus-art

Hope for a fresh settlement in Cyprus James Landale, January 8th 2017

Cyprus peace talks begin on future of divided island January 9th 2017

Cyprus peace talks ‘resolve many issues’ January 11th 2017

Cyprus peace talks: Can Cypriots heal their divided island? Selin Girit, January 12th 2017

Cyprus peace deal close, says UN chief after Geneva talks January 12th 2017

With one exception, all the reports concerning the Cyprus talks included an impartial and nuanced explanation of the main issues underlying the dispute:

cyprus-arts-sticking-points

In contrast to BBC coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, audiences reading the coverage of the Cyprus talks did not find any pronouncements allocating disputed territory to one side or the other in the style of the frequently seen terminology “occupied Palestinian land” and “Palestinian territory”.

Regarding the 30,000 or so Turkish troops in northern Cyprus, audiences were told that “Greek Cypriots see them as an occupying force” but not that (with the obvious exception of Turkey) the rest of the world views them in the same way and considers that occupation illegal.

None of the reports concerning Cyprus informs readers of the fact that it was Turkish state policy to facilitate and encourage the immigration of Turkish nationals to the northern part of island during the latter half of the 1970s and – in contrast to BBC reporting on Israel and the Palestinians – the words ‘settlers’, ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ do not appear in any of the reports.

Obviously the BBC is able to report on the enduring conflict in Cyprus in a manner which refrains from promoting a particular politically-motivated narrative and provides audiences with an impartial view of the issue – just as BBC editorial guidelines demand. Unfortunately for BBC audiences seeking to understand the Arab-Israeli conflict, the same standards are not evident.

Related Articles:

Not all ‘occupied territories’ are equal for the BBC

 

BBC WS’s ‘Newshour’ continues the promotion of a myth

The afternoon and evening editions of the January 15th BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – both presented by James Menendez – included coverage of the Paris conference which took place that day.  

Menendez’ introduction to that lead item in the afternoon edition (from 00:87 here) steered listeners towards inaccurate conclusions regarding the absence of Israeli and Palestinian participants in that conference by failing to clarify that neither party had been invited.newshour-15-1-afternoon

“But first to that big international meeting being held in Paris right now to try to resuscitate the moribund Middle East peace process. More than 70 countries are taking part but the fact that the two protagonists – Israel and the Palestinians – aren’t, well it tells you everything you need to know about the scale of the task ahead and in particular, the task of reviving the idea of a solution based on two states living side by side in peace. It’s 23 years since the signing of the so-called Oslo Peace Accords but a Palestinian state looks like a more remote prospect now than then.”

After listeners heard archive recordings relating to the Oslo Accords and following a clip from John Kerry’s speech in late December, Menendez introduced his first interviewee [from 03:50] – PA Minister of Education Sabri Saydam.

Menendez: “Well today’s conference in Paris is aimed precisely at restarting an international commitment to that two-state solution. But will it make any difference at all? Well let’s hear now from both sides and first, the Palestinians; presumably they welcome the fact that this conference is taking place. Sabri Saydam is a senior official in Fatah, the Palestinian party that controls the West Bank.”

Listeners then heard Saydam claim that all Palestinians support the two-state solution.

Saydam: “For every Palestinian this is a recipe for consensus and this is a reflection on the will of the international community and this is a reminder both to the American administration that the UN resolutions would have to be upheld and for Israel that the end of occupation is imminent.” [emphasis added]

That obviously inaccurate claim was not challenged by Menendez either at that point or later, when Saydam went on to suggest that all Palestinians believe that “the two-state solution is the only workable formula”.

Menendez: “Does it make any difference though?”

Saydam: “Maybe not for the Israeli government that exists right now; the right-wing government that believes in the policy of expansion of settlements and believes in the continuation of the occupation. Yet for Palestinians it makes a world of difference. Remember, this comes after a few weeks of the decision taken by the Security Council deeming settlements – Israeli settlements – as illegal. So for Palestinians this is a reassurance that the two-state solution is the only workable formula.” [emphasis added]

The interview continued with questions from Menendez on topics including the new American administration and the possible relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem and with Saydam promoting the narrative – unquestioned by his host – according to which the Palestinians support a two-state solution but are thwarted by Israel.newshour-15-1-evening

An abridged version of that interview – including the above unchallenged statements – was also broadcast [from 26:38 here] in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day.

The BBC knows perfectly well that Hamas (together with additional Palestinian factions) does not seek a negotiated peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. In its own profile of the terrorist organisation the BBC writes:

“Hamas is designated a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US, EU, Canada and Japan due to its long record of attacks and its refusal to renounce violence. Under the group’s charter, Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel. […]

Hamas came to prominence after the first intifada as the main Palestinian opponent of the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). […]

Hamas resisted all efforts to get it to sign up to previous Palestinian agreements with Israel, as well as to recognise Israel’s legitimacy and to renounce violence.

Hamas’s charter defines historic Palestine – including present-day Israel – as Islamic land and it rules out any permanent peace with the Jewish state.”

Nevertheless, in all its recent reporting of UNSC resolution 2334 and the Paris conference the BBC has framed the story as being about a “moribund”, “fading” two-state solution which is endangered primarily by Israeli construction of housing units in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem.

Not once in all that generous coverage have BBC audiences been reminded that when last given the chance to vote eleven years ago, 44.45% of Palestinians supported the party which rejects outright the option of peace with Israel. Neither have they been told that a recent opinion poll suggests that if elections were held today, Hamas would gain around a third of the votes.

Instead – as this example yet again shows – the BBC repeatedly promotes the myth that support for the two-state solution is a matter of consensus among Palestinians.  While that myth certainly helps shore up its chosen narrative on the issue of the peace process, it obviously does not contribute to the BBC’s remit of building “global understanding” concerning the range of factors preventing the two-state solution from becoming reality.

 

BBC WS listeners hear anti-terrorist fence falsehood and more

In addition to the reporting on last week’s conference in Paris seen on the BBC News website (discussed here), the corporation of course also covered the same topic on BBC World Service radio.

An edition of the programme ‘Newshour’ broadcast on January 14th – the day before the conference took place – included an item (from 08:10 here) introduced as follows by presenter Anu Anand:newshour-14-1

“Now, on Sunday in Paris seventy nations will meet to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though neither of the two main stakeholders will be represented. It’s seen as a final chance to save the so-called two-state solution with Jerusalem…ah…shared as the capital between them. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been asking Israelis and Palestinians whether they think the idea can still work.”

Knell opened with yet another typically edited presentation of the history of Jerusalem in which the 19 years of Jordanian occupation of parts of the city were erased from audience view.

Knell: “At the edge of Jerusalem’s Old City, Palestinians and Israelis pass each other on the streets. Some are out shopping, others heading to pray. So could this become a shared capital for both peoples living peacefully side by side in two nations? That’s how many see the two-state solution to the conflict. But today Israel considers East Jerusalem, which it captured in the 1967 war, part of its united capital and Palestinian analyst Nour Arafa [phonetic] doesn’t think it will give it up.”

With no challenge whatsoever from Knell, her interviewee was then allowed to misrepresent restrictions on entry to Israel from PA controlled areas, to promote the lie that the anti-terrorist fence was built for reasons other than the prevention of terrorism and to tout the falsehood of “lack of geographical continuity”.  

Arafa: “The idea itself is not accepted by Israel and they have been trying to isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories through closure policies, by construction of the wall which started in 2002 and by the illegal settlement expansion. So the idea itself of a future Palestinian state is realistically not possible on the ground because of the lack of geographical continuity.”

Next, Knell moved on to the town of Efrat in Gush Etzion – predictably refraining from informing her listeners that the area was the site of land purchases and settlement by Jews long before the Jordanian invasion of 1948 but making sure to insert the BBC’s standard ‘international law’ mantra.

“Here in Efrat in the West Bank, new shops and apartments are being built. Settlements like this one are seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees. Over 600 thousand Jewish settlers live in areas that the Palestinians want for their state.”

Having briefly interviewed the mayor of Efrat, Knell continued; promoting a particular interpretation of recent events in international fora while clearly signposting to listeners which party is supposedly blocking the “push for peace”.

“But there are new international efforts to push for peace. Last month the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a halt in settlement building. Now there’s the Paris conference. Palestinians welcome these moves and Israel rejects them, saying only direct talks can bring peace.”

Knell’s next interviewee was Israeli MK Erel Margalit, although listeners were not told to which party he belongs. She then went on to raise the BBC’s current ‘hot topic’:

“But could Israel’s strongest ally, the US, be about to change the debate? I’ve come to a plot of open land and pine trees in Jerusalem. It’s long been reserved for a US embassy and now Donald Trump is talking about moving his ambassador here from Tel Aviv, where all foreign embassies are at the moment. Palestinian minister Mohammed Shtayyeh says this would kill hopes for creating a Palestinian state.”

That “plot of open land” which Knell visited is located in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Talpiot (established in 1922) which lies on the Israeli side of the 1949 Armistice Agreement lines. Knell could therefore have posed Mohammed Shtayyeh with a question that the BBC has to date repeatedly refrained from asking: why should the Palestinians object to the relocation of the US embassy to an area of Jerusalem to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim? Knell did not however enhance audience understanding of the issue by asking that question. Instead, Shtayyeh was allowed to present his rhetoric unchallenged.

Shtayyeh: “For us we consider Jerusalem as a future capital of the State of Palestine, so having the president moving the embassy there, then it is an American recognition that Jerusalem is part of the State of Israel. That’s why we consider this American move as an end to the peace process; an end to two states and really, putting the whole region into chaos.”

After listeners heard a recording of sirens, Knell continued:

“Sirens a week ago. Just down the road from the proposed US embassy site a Palestinian man killed four Israeli soldiers in a lorry-ramming attack.”

The terrorist who committed that attack was in fact a resident of the nearby Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber and the lorry he used to carry out the attack (which he owned) bore Israeli licence plates. Knell’s description of the terrorist as “a Palestinian man” is therefore misleading to audiences. She closed the item with the following words:

“Recently there’s been an upsurge in violence here and it’s added to fears on both sides in this conflict that chances for a peace deal are fading and of what could result.”

Yolande Knell’s talking points obviously did not include terrorism by Palestinian factions opposed to negotiations with Israel or a reminder to audiences of the fact that the peace process which began in the 1990s was curtailed by the PA initiated terror war known as the second Intifada.

This report joins the many previous ones in which the BBC promotes an account of the “fading” peace process that focuses on ‘settlements’ while excluding many no less relevant factors from its politicised framing. 

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of the Paris conference

BBC’s Yolande Knell touts the ‘1967 borders’ illusion on Radio 4

 

 

BBC’s Yolande Knell touts the ‘1967 borders’ illusion on Radio 4

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sundayclaims that it gives listeners “a look at the ethical and religious issues of the week”. However, the lead item in its January 15th edition fell outside that mission statement and, as its description in the programme’s synopsis shows, was in fact a transparently political story.r4-sunday-us-embassy-15-1

“Yolande Knell reports on the implications of a proposal by President elect Trump to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Presenter Edward Stourton introduced the item (from 00:61 here) as follows:

“Will Donald Trump follow through with his campaign promise to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? The answer to that question could have huge implications for the Middle East. We’re joined from Jerusalem by our correspondent Yolande Knell. Yolande; it matters because the status of Jerusalem is absolutely crucial to the two-state solution that people, until now, say they want.”

Predictably, Knell’s response had the history of the millennia-old city beginning just fifty years ago, with no mention of the preceding 19-year Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem.

Knell: “That’s right and Jerusalem has proven time and time again to be one of the most explosive issues; one of the most difficult issues to solve in this decades-old conflict, not least because of its holy sites for Jews, Muslims and Christians. And of course Israel captured the east of the city – which includes the Old City – in 1967 in the Middle East war. It went on to annex East Jerusalem, declare all of Jerusalem its united, eternal capital – although that’s never been recognised internationally. And the Palestinians are basically saying that any move for a US embassy – bringing it from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – would kill the two-state solution; this long-standing goal of international policy on this conflict. It’s enshrined in UN resolutions: the idea of creating a Palestinian state to live peacefully alongside Israel. It will be based in Gaza, the West Bank and have East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Stourton: “I think I’m right in saying the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has been in the Vatican this weekend. He’s been talking about some of this, hasn’t he?”

In her response to that question, Knell introduced the falsehood of “pre-1967 borders” – a concept which not only does not exist, but was specifically and deliberately rejected by the parties to the 1949 Armistice Agreement.

Knell: “That’s right – very deliberate timing. He was actually at the Vatican to inaugurate an embassy for the State of Palestine. This is after the Vatican recognised a State of Palestine on pre-1967 borders and he was there for talks with the Pope. He told reporters while he was there that this…again, this move would destroy the two-state solution and he talked to the Pope about the need for Jerusalem to be an open city for three religions, we’re told. The Vatican’s position is that it seeks an internationally guaranteed status for Jerusalem: a status that would safeguard its sacred character.”

Stourton: “The…Donald Trump is not the first American president to have talked about the possibility of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. Ahm…it hasn’t happened though in the past. How strong is the evidence that he’s really serious about this?”

Knell: “Well, because Donald Trump made this campaign promise and so many previous presidential contenders have – George W Bush and Bill Clinton at least and then they didn’t do it – that means that people really didn’t take it very seriously at first. But then we heard from one of his advisors – from Kellyanne Conway – that this was for him a very big priority. There was also the State Department official who came out saying to the press that it had been asked for logistical advice on a move. And then we know as well that the nominee for ambassador to Israel chosen by Mr Trump, David Friedman – somebody with very hardline views – he wants this very much. He issued a statement when he was nominated saying that he looked forward to moving the US embassy to Israel’s eternal capital Jerusalem: those were his words. So when I’ve been briefed by Palestinian officials – even in just the last few days – one of their fears is this announcement could come in the inauguration speech of Mr Trump.”

According to reports from the time, the words Knell claims to quote were actually these:

“In the statement, Freidman said he was “deeply honored and humbled” that Trump selected him to represent the US in Israel, and that he aimed to “strengthen the bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.””

Stourton continued:

Stourton: “What about the international background to all this because there’s this…as we have in the news, there’s this conference in Paris today on this question.”

Knell: “Yes and it’s also coming after a UN Security Council resolution was passed last month restating this commitment to the two-state solution and well-informed sources are basically saying that a draft statement from the Paris talks is going to come out with a similar kind of statement. It will affirm also the international community will not recognise changes to the pre-1967 lines for Israel unless they’re agreed with the Palestinians. It will make clear that a negotiated solution is the only way to ensure enduring peace but it’s also going to warn, I think, against unilateral moves. That could be a reference to the idea of Donald Trump moving…eh…moving the embassy because that would basically recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.”

In fact, the reference to “unilateral steps” in the text of the conference’s closing statement specifically relates to the two parties to the conflict rather than to the US or any other outside country.

Stourton: “And, Yolande, finally: do you detect internally any appetite for renewed negotiations between the two sides?”

Once again, BBC audiences heard a sanitised version of the breakdown of negotiations in 2014 that promotes false equivalence in Knell’s response to that question. However, Knell made sure to close with some very clear signposting with regard to which side listeners should view as being responsible for the lack of current negotiations.

Knell: “Ahm…both sides say that they’re ready to have talks but then the talks have been frozen since April 2014. They fell apart and I think that’s why there is now this…a lot of frustration from the international community. You have 70 countries and international bodies like the EU, the UN, the Arab League, other organisations, coming together for these talks. When you talk to analysts they really see these as a last-ditch attempt to try to save the moribund peace process but they don’t expect much to come out of these talks because – as much as the Palestinians are supporting them – the Israelis say that these are futile, they’re rigged, this pushes peace backwards and they’re not even going to go for a meeting with President Hollande in the coming weeks to be debriefed on what happened.”

Fatah Facebook account

Fatah Facebook account

Since mid-December the BBC has produced several items concerning or mentioning the proposed relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem. All those reports – including this one – have amplified the Palestinian messaging on that topic but BBC audiences have yet to hear any opposite viewpoint – as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality demand.

Seeing as we now know that Yolande Knell is “briefed by Palestinian officials – even in just the last few days”, that lack of due impartiality is perhaps more comprehensible.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC omits key context in account of potential US embassy move

The consequence of BBC failure to make online corrections

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of the Paris conference

 

 

 

 

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of the Paris conference

The BBC News website’s coverage of the pretentiously titled “Conference pour la Paix au Proche-Orient” which was held in Paris on January 15th included two items produced before the event took place and one report published after it concluded.

1) “Can Paris summit save fading two-state solution?” – Yolande Knell, BBC News website, January 14th 2017.

2) “Why aren’t the Israelis and Palestinians talking?” – BBC News website and BBC television news, January 14th 2017.

3) “Israel-Palestinian conflict: Summit warns against unilateral actions” – BBC News website, January 15th 2017.

Several noteworthy themes were apparent in those reports.paris-conf-report-2-filmed

a) In the synopsis to the second (filmed) report, audiences were told that:

“The two sides have not spoken directly since the last round of peace talks broke down in 2014.”

The report itself stated:

“The last round [of talks] collapsed in April 2014 and they haven’t met since then”.

In the third report, audiences were told that:

“The last round of direct peace talks collapsed amid acrimony in April 2014.”

BBC audiences have seen that mantra of equivalence promoted on numerous occasions in the past and the BBC’s framing of the story at the time did not provide audiences with the full range of information and background necessary for full understanding of the reasons for the breakdown of that round of talks. Thus we see that almost three years on, the BBC continues to promote a version of events which conceals from audience view the fact that the Palestinian Authority made three important choices between March 17th and April 23rd 2014 (not to accept the American framework, to join international agencies in breach of existing commitments and to opt for reconciliation with Hamas) which had a crucial effect on the fate of those negotiations.

b) The reports continued the long-standing practice of careless wording which leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – building homes in existing towns and villages, most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.

The first report states:

“The conference follows last month’s UN Security Council resolution which called on Israel to stop settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

In the second report, viewers were told that before talks can resume:

“Palestinians first want Israel to stop settlement-building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem”.

And that the chances of renewed talks are “slim” because:

“Israeli settlement activity shows no sign of slowing”.

In report three, readers found the following:

“The meeting also comes at a time of tension between Israel and the international community after the UN passed a resolution last month denouncing Israel’s settlement activity on occupied land. […]

Palestinians fiercely object to Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory it wants for a future state.”

Obviously the use of such inaccurate language does not enhance audience understanding of the subject and none of the reports mentioned the 2009 freeze of construction in communities in Judea & Samaria and the fact that the Palestinians refused to negotiate during most of that ten-month freeze. Likewise, all three reports refrained from informing audiences of the fact that the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – the Oslo Accords – place no limitations whatsoever on construction in Area C or Jerusalem. 

c) As ever, audiences were provided with a partial portrayal of ‘international law’ in all these reports. None of the reports provided any relevant historical background on the subject of the 1948 Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem or the 1967 Jordanian attack which subsequently left Israel in control of those areas.

The first report stated:

“Over 600,000 Israelis live in these areas which were captured in the 1967 Middle East war. They are seen as illegal under international law, but Israel disagrees.”

In report two viewers were told that:

“The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The third report informed readers that:

“The settlements, home to about 600,000 Israelis, are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

d) Contrasting with the promotion of the well-worn BBC theme of ‘settlements as an obstacle to peace’, the presentation of issues on the other side of the divide was minimal and qualified, using the ‘Israel says’ formula. In the first report readers found the following:

“They [Israeli officials] argue that the very Palestinian leaders with whom they are supposed to be seeking peace have incited an upsurge in attacks, mostly stabbings, since October 2015.”

That, however, was ‘balanced’ with a statement straight out of the PLO’s media guidance:

“Palestinian leaders blame the violence on a younger generation’s anger at the failure of talks to end Israel’s occupation and deliver on promises of an independent state.”

In report two, viewers were told that:

“Israel does not want pre-conditions [to talks]. It says Palestinian violence and incitement is the big problem”.

Only in report three did BBC audiences find a brief reference to the very relevant issue of the PA’s refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state.

“Israel says Palestinian incitement and violence, and a refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state, are key obstacles to peace.”

e) All three reports included portrayals of Jerusalem which failed to mention that it is one of the issues to be resolved in final status negotiations under the terms of the Oslo Accords.paris-conf-1-knell

In the first report, Yolande Knell told readers that:

“For many, the holy city of Jerusalem is meant to be a shared capital for Israel and the Palestinians – two peoples in two nations, living peacefully, side-by-side.

At least that is the dream of the so-called “two-state solution” to end a decades-old conflict.”

In the second report viewers were told that:

“They also disagree over Jerusalem. Israel says the city is its capital, but Palestinians want their own capital in the east”.

In report three readers found the following:

“The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive and complex issues of the entire conflict. The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state but Israel proclaim the entire city as its capital.”

f) The first and third reports included generous amplification of Palestinian statements concerning the proposed relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem – once again without any clarification as to why there should be objection to the transfer of a foreign embassy to a location to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim.paris-conf-3 

Report one told readers that:

“The timing of the talks in Paris – just days before Donald Trump moves into the White House – appear very deliberate.

He has not yet spelt out his vision for the Middle East but has shown strong backing for the Israeli far-right.

He has nominated a lawyer, David Friedman, who is an outspoken critic of the two-state solution and supporter of settlements, to be his ambassador to Israel.

Mr Trump has also promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Like other countries, the US currently keeps its embassy in Tel Aviv, as it does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

“This is very dangerous what President-elect Trump wants to do,” Palestinian official, Mohammed Shtayyeh tells me. “It is American recognition that Jerusalem is part of the State of Israel.”

“We would consider this American move as an end to the peace process, an end to the two states and really putting the whole region into chaos.””

In report three readers were told:

“But they [the conference delegates] shied away from criticising President-elect Donald Trump’s suggested US embassy move to Jerusalem. […]

The conference comes at a time of rising tension in the region, and there are fears President-elect Trump’s plans to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could stoke it further.

There was deep alarm among participants at the conference that if President Trump does break with decades of US policy and move the embassy to Jerusalem, then conditions will be set for another upsurge in violence in the region, says the BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris. […]

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told France 3 TV on Sunday he thought Mr Trump would not be able to make the move, but if he did, it would have “extremely serious consequences”.

On Saturday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned such a move could “bury the hopes for a two-state solution”.”paris-conf-filmed-dt

The third report closes telling viewers that:

“The Palestinians want international involvement, but Israel says a settlement cannot be imposed. And Israel has the backing of Donald Trump”.

Once again the BBC failed to provide its audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the background to this story – and not least the decidedly relevant fact that various Palestinian factions, including Hamas, completely reject the concept of the two-state solution – while promoting some of its regular framing of the topic.  

Related Articles:

Background to the BBC’s inaccurate framing of the end of Middle East talks

Revisiting the BBC’s framing of the 2013/14 Israel-PLO negotiations

BBC News produces eight versions of report on three-hour Paris meeting

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Paris conference falsehood

BBC’s Bowen employs apartheid analogy in report on Paris conference

 

 

 

 

 

BBC’s double standards on terrorism highlighted again

Last month the BBC marked the anniversary of the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris with a series of reports on multiple platforms.

Some of those reports focused on the stories of victims and survivors of the attacks.

Bataclan terror attack: Family of British victim speak a year on” BBC News website, November 7th, 2016.

“The family of the only British victim of the Paris nightclub attack a year ago have told of seeing the terror incident unfold in “real time”.”

‘A changed man’: One year on from surviving the Paris terror attacks” BBC Radio 5 live & BBC News website, November 12th, 2016.

“The smell of a firework or the sight of blood can take Michael O’Connor back to the night when 89 people lost their lives in the Bataclan terror attack in Paris.”

The Bataclan attacks remembered”  BBC Radio 4 & BBC News website, November 10th, 2016.

‘Grandson thinks rocket took away daddy after Bataclan attack’” BBC Radio 5 live & BBC News website, November 11th, 2016.

British Bataclan survivor writes letter a year on from Paris attacks” Newsbeat, November 11th, 2016.

“On 13 November 2015, terrorists tried to kill me. Whilst they did not succeed in ending my life, my life has been changed forever.”

Bataclan terror attack: Survivor returns to concert hall” BBC News website, November 13th, 2016.

“A survivor of last year’s Bataclan terror attack in Paris, Stephane Toutlouyan, explains why he returned to the concert-hall to relive the night.”

Other reports focused on commemoration of the attacks in France, including the reopening of the Bataclan Theatre.

Paris attacks: France state of emergency to be extended – PM Valls” BBC News website, November 13th, 2016

“France’s state of emergency imposed after last year’s terror attacks in Paris is likely to be extended, Prime Minister Manuel Valls has told the BBC.”

Paris attacks: Bataclan reopens, but wounds are not closed” BBC News website, November 13th, 2016.

“France is commemorating its worst terrorist attack on home soil since World War Two. The attacks by so-called Islamic State, on the night of 13 November last year, left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded.”

Paris attacks: Sting prepares for Bataclan concert” BBC News website, November 12th, 2016.

“Sting and his band rehearse for their concert which will reopen the Bataclan hall in Paris for the first time since last year’s terror attack.”

Sting tribute for Bataclan victims” BBC News website, November 13th, 2016.

“Pop star Sting played a concert to mark the reopening of Paris’ Bataclan venue, a year after the terrorist attack there.”editorial-guidelines

As can be seen above, despite its own guidelines on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism‘, the BBC was able to accurately and appropriately describe the November 2015 attacks in Paris as acts of terror.

In contrast, not only do BBC audiences not get to hear the stories of Israeli victims and survivors of attacks but the corporation continues its editorial policy of refraining from using the words ‘terror’, terrorism’ or ‘terrorist’ in its reporting from Israel.  

Related Articles:

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

Compare and contrast: BBC News personalisation of victims of terror

Comparing BBC personalisation of victims of terror in Paris, Brussels and Israel

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

Revisiting the BBC’s policy on naming and personalising victims of terror

Earlier this month the trial of one of the two terrorists who carried out an attack on a Jerusalem bus last October in which three Israelis were murdered and dozens injured came to a close.

“A Jerusalem court on Monday sentenced an East Jerusalem terrorist to three consecutive life sentences and an additional 60 years in prison for killing three people in an attack on a bus in the capital last October.

Last month, Bilal Abu Ghanem was convicted of three counts of murder, seven counts of attempted murder and aiding the enemy in wartime for his role in killing three people in a terror attack on a bus in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood.”

As readers may recall the BBC News website reported the murders of Chaim Haviv and Alon Govberg but did not name them or provide any other personal details. The death of a third victim of the same bus attack – Richard Lakin – two weeks later did not receive any BBC coverage at all.

In another trial this month:

“A Palestinian man who stabbed two Israelis to death in Tel Aviv last year was convicted by the Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday on two counts of murder and three of attempted murder after confessing to the charges.

Raed Masalmeh, 36, a father of five from the Hebron-area town of Dura in the West Bank, previously pleaded not guilty to murdering Reuven Aviram and Aharon Yesiav in a Tel Aviv office building synagogue on November 19, 2015.”

The BBC News website reported that attack, together with another one on the same day, but once again the victims were not named. There has been no BBC reporting on either of these trials.Istanbul attack victims

After last November’s terror attacks in Paris, the BBC News website produced an article paying tribute to the people murdered and that practice of naming, personalising and humanising victims of terror attacks has since continued.

BBC audiences have learned about victims of the March 2016 attack at Brussels airport and the June 2016 attacks in Orlando and at Istanbul airport. In July 2016 the BBC News website made efforts to personalise victims of terror in Baghdad, in Kabul, in Nice and in Munich. Five policemen killed in a shooting attack in Dallas were the subject of an article titled “Dallas police shootings: Who are the victims?“.

However, for BBC audiences the vast majority of terror victims in Israel remain faceless and in very many cases such as those noted above, even nameless.  

What word is missing from BBC report on sentencing of Hamas terrorists?

As has been mentioned here on prior occasions, it is extremely rare to see any follow-up reporting by the BBC after Palestinian terrorists have been arrested and put on trial but just such a report did appear on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 22nd under the headline “Palestinians jailed for life for killing Israeli couple“.Henkin terrorists sentencing art

However, despite this being a story about the sentencing of convicted terrorists belonging to the Hamas terrorist organisation who murdered two Israelis in a pre-planned terror attack, the words terror, terrorist or terrorism do not appear even once in this report.

“An Israeli military court has sentenced four Palestinians to life in prison for the murder of an Israeli couple in the occupied West Bank, the military says.

Eitam and Naama Henkin were killed in front of their four young children in a drive-by shooting on 1 October.

The military said the assailants, members of the Islamist movement Hamas, opened fire at the Henkins’ car after an attempt to abduct them failed.”

What does appear in this article is the above link to the BBC’s original report on the attack. There we learn that over nine months since its publication, BBC Online has still not got round to correcting its inaccurate presentation of Eitam Henkin’s name.

Pigua Henkin family names

Sadly, there is of course nothing surprising about the BBC’s censoring of the word terror from this article: the same pattern was seen in its earlier reporting on the same story (see ‘related articles’ below).

However, just a few days earlier the BBC was capable of reporting that “jihadist terror struck Paris in November“.

terror Paris a

Similarly, BBC audiences were recently informed of “counter-terror raids” in Belgium which resulted in three men being charged.

“The charges they face include attempting to commit murder through terrorism and participating in a terrorist group.”

The BBC was also able to tell audiences in its own words that these raids were:

“…the biggest coordinated operation since the terror attacks here in Brussels three months ago.”

And that:

“Thirty-two people were murdered in the terror attacks in March…”

terror Belgium

Once again we see that while the BBC rightly uses the word terror when it reports on that topic in Europe, the same word is censored from its reporting from Israel, even an article about terrorists already convicted in court.  

Related Articles:

BBC’s Connolly refrains from using the word terror in report on terror attack

BBC News describes Henkin family attackers as “alleged militants”

 

BBC Trust rejects appeals on Willcox ‘Jewish hands’ complaints

Eighteen months after the original broadcast, the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee has now published its findings concerning complaints about remarks made by Tim Willcox during a broadcast from Paris after the terror attacks at the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Hypercacher supermarket in January 2015.Willcox

Readers will no doubt recall that in response to complaints, the BBC originally claimed that Willcox’s subsequent apology on Twitter sufficed. Having received a large number of complaints, the BBC then decided to consolidate them. Concurrently, additional complaints made to OFCOM were rejected.

In February 2015 the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit provisionally rejected the consolidated complaint, sparking condemnation from the Board of Deputies of British Jews. In May 2015 the ECU finalised its decision.

On June 16th 2016 the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee published the outcome of appeals against that decision. A summary can be found on page 4 and the full decision is on page 11 here.

Unsurprisingly, the ESC rejected all the appeals and the convoluted ‘rationale’ behind that decision raises issues in itself. [all emphasis added]

“The Committee noted the response from the Editor of the BBC News Channel:

“Given the apology by [the presenter] at the time, it is clear we accept that the question itself was somewhat clumsy, and the phrase ‘Jewish hands’ might not have been chosen in a scripted context, given the specific point behind the question was about Israel’s relations with the Palestinians. We note the earlier findings that this phrase, while clumsy and insufficiently specific, was not a breach of the BBC’s guidelines given the regular conflation of Israel and Jewish by critics of Israel’s policies, and the use by some of the phrase ‘Jewish state’ to describe Israel.” […]

The Committee did not uphold the points of appeal, for the following reasons:

  • whilst some of the audience clearly found it both harmful and offensive to conflate Jewish and Israeli, the perspective was clearly attributed to critics of Israel
  • it was posited neither as the presenter’s view nor as a valid position. The presenter’s remarks were positing a reason the perpetrators might have used or others might use to try to justify or legitimise their actions in making Jews a target of the attack. The Committee did not accept the suggestion that the presenter had been seeking to hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the State of Israel
  • while it is abhorrent to murder Parisian Jews as a response to the actions of the State of Israel, and the actions of the State of Israel cannot be used to excuse or legitimise the events in Paris or to connect Parisian Jews to the State, it is evidently a justification used by those who perpetrate such acts of violence
  • physical attacks in Paris on Jewish people and their institutions during the war in Gaza a few months prior to the January massacres are evidence that the presenter’s observation was factually based
  • there have been comments by Jewish community leaders in France and the UK acknowledging that the war in Gaza was the motivation for anti-Semitic attacks […]
  • the conflation of Jewish and Israeli was duly accurate and editorially justified in this particular instance: it was clearly attributed, well-sourced, based on sound evidence, and was adequate and appropriate to the output.The Committee acknowledged the sensitivity of the subject matter and the genuine offence felt by some listeners. However, Trustees considered it important to note that the Editorial Guidelines permit the legitimate use of challenging material and allow reporters and presenters, where appropriate, to raise difficult issues in accordance with generally accepted standards. Trustees considered that, although the presenter had acknowledged that some viewers may have been offended by his choice of language, for which he had apologised promptly, given all the circumstances, his phraseology did not breach the Harm and Offence Guidelines.The Committee concluded that the BBC had demonstrated a clear editorial purpose in positing a connection between Jews “being the targets now” and “many critics of Israel’s policy” who would “suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands”.”

In other words, the BBC Trust appears to be claiming that because anti-Israel activists – and murderous antisemites – use the terms ‘Israel’ and ‘Jewish’ interchangeably, it is legitimate for it to adopt the same language and that the use of such language is legitimate according to its editorial guidelines. One can of course only speculate whether or not the BBC would find it similarly appropriate to adopt and amplify the language of ‘justification’ used by those perpetrating acts of violence against, for example, the gay community.

The ESC likewise rejected appeals concerning the inadequacy of Willcox’s Twitter apology and the absence of any apology broadcast on the station which aired the remarks.

“The Committee noted the response from the Editor of the BBC News Channel:

“It is important to note that far from failing to recognise the issue, action was taken soon after the interview took place with [the presenter] accepting that the question he posed had been poorly phrased. He gave a clear apology the following morning via the social media network Twitter… This apology was also provided to media organisations by the BBC Press Office.”

The Committed noted the decision of the Editorial Complaints Unit at Stage 2 that the Twitter apology was sufficient because the presenter’s comments did not constitute a serious breach of editorial standards which would require a formal public correction and apology.

The Committee concluded that as the presenter’s comments had not breached the Editorial Guidelines on Harm and Offence, the Twitter apology for the poor phrasing and its wider circulation in the media via the BBC Press Office, was adequate and appropriate.”BBC Trust

Notably, this is not the first time that the self-regulating BBC Trust has rejected appeals concerning remarks made by this reporter, despite their having been flagged up by expert bodies dealing with antisemitism: the CST and the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.

It is of course also remarkable that the BBC Trust (along with OFCOM, as cited in this document) is apparently convinced that it possesses the authority and expertise to make judgements what is – or in this case, what is not – antisemitic discourse. And that despite the fact that both OFCOM and the BBC have yet to inform their funding public which accepted definition of antisemitism – if any – they use as the basis for such decisions. 

 

 

 

 

Continuing the mapping of BBC inconsistency in terrorism reporting

A decade has passed since the publication of the ‘Report of the Independent Panel for the BBC Governors on Impartiality of BBC Coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’ – also known as the Thomas Report.

Notwithstanding its many shortcomings, one of the recommendations made in that report called for the use of clear and consistent language.

“We say that the BBC should get the language right. We think they should call terrorist acts “terrorism” because that term is clear and well understood. Equally, on this and other sensitive points of language, once they have decided the best answer they should ensure it is adopted consistently”. […]

“The term “terrorism” should accordingly be used in respect of relevant events since it is the most accurate expression for actions which involve violence against randomly selected civilians with the intention of causing terror for ideological, including political or religious, objectives, whether perpetrated by state or non-state agencies.”

In June 2006 the BBC Governors published their response to the Thomas Report in which that particular recommendation was rejected. At the time a BBC article stated:

“Managers also questioned the use of the word “terrorism” as defined in the independent report, chaired by British Board of Film Classification president Sir Quentin Thomas.

In the report, “terrorism” was described as “the most accurate expression for actions which involve violence against randomly selected civilians with the intention of causing terror”.

Such a definition, executives argued, “would exclude attacks on soldiers” and oblige journalists to make “the very value judgements” they are asked to avoid making under the BBC’s editorial guidelines.” 

The topic of “value judgements” still forms a significant part of the BBC’s Guidance on Language when Reporting Terrorism.

“The value judgements frequently implicit in the use of the words “terrorist” or “terrorist group” can create inconsistency in their use or, to audiences, raise doubts about our impartiality. For example, the bombing of a bus in London was carried out by “terrorists”, but the bombing of a bus in Israel was perpetrated by a “suicide bomber”. Or again, “terrorists” in London bombed a tube train, but “insurgents” in Iraq have “assassinated” the Egyptian ambassador. The use of the words can imply judgement where there is no clear consensus about the legitimacy of militant political groups.

Have we assessed the merits of the different perpetrators’ cause, the acts of the different Governments against the perpetrators, or even the value of civilian lives further from home?  We must be careful not to give the impression that we have come to some kind of implicit -and unwarranted – value judgement.

Some will argue that certain events are so evidently acts of terror (and, therefore, perpetrated by “terrorists”) that those descriptions are reasonable, and non-judgemental. However, the language we choose to use in reporting one incident cannot be considered in isolation from our reporting of other stories. So to use the word in incidents which we may consider obvious creates difficulties for less clear-cut incidents. […]

We also need to ask ourselves whether by using “terrorist” we are taking a political position, or certainly one that may be seen as such.”

As we have frequently remarked on these pages, deliberate abstention from use of the word terror is often just as much a ‘value judgement’ and an expression of a “political position” as is its use.

That Guidance also demands consistency from BBC journalists:

“We can no longer isolate the BBC’s coverage of the UK from how it reports the rest of the world. With global access to our services, the concept of a “primary audience” is problematic: reports made for News 24 are often shared on BBC World; UK bulletins are streamed on the internet; and users of BBC Online can compare the words used on global and UK pages with just a few mouse clicks.

Importantly even within the same bulletin on the same service, there can be issues of inconsistency in how we describe who is doing what to whom. “Militants in Gaza launch a rocket attack: terrorists plant bombs in London…” Don’t assume that what you write or say is confined to a small part of our audience.”

We have frequently documented on these pages the lack of consistency in the BBC’s use – or not – of the word terror (see ‘related articles’ below) and this past week has unfortunately provided several additional examples of the phenomenon.

The BBC News website’s coverage of the June 8th terror attack at Sarona Market in Tel Aviv did not include any use of the word terror and its derivatives by the BBC itself and the word was only seen in direct quotes from Israelis.

A similar approach appears to have been adopted in most of the reporting on the terror attack in Orlando on June 12th with use of the word terror confined to direct quotes – see for example here, here and here. Exceptions were seen in indirect references to terrorism which appeared in written and filmed analysis from the BBC’s security correspondent Gordon Corera and in a ‘Newsbeat’ article headlined “Concerns over UK LGBT venues ‘copycat’ style terror attacks“.Paris attack 13 6 on Europe pge

Coverage of the terror attack in France on June 14th also included reports which only used the word terrorism to describe the incident in direct quotes – see for example here, here and here – while other reports made references to the perpetrator’s past links to terrorism. A filmed report by the BBC’s Paris correspondent Lucy Williamson stood out for its refreshing use of accurate terminology.

“Last night France’s battle with terrorism came to this suburban street….”

“This is the man who brought terror to a quiet commuter town.”

An ambiguous approach is also seen in recently produced material concerning the 20th anniversary of the IRA terror attack in Manchester. An article appearing on the BBC News website does clarify what the story is about in its headline – “Manchester IRA bomb: Terror blast remembered 20 years on” – but anyone unfamiliar with the story who read the ‘About The BBC Blog’ post promoted by the corporation on social media would have great difficulty understanding that the “1996 Manchester Bomb” was a terror attack committed by the IRA.

As we see once again, the BBC not only has difficulty in achieving consistency – and therefore impartiality – in its reporting of terrorism in assorted locations, but even in different reports about the same incident. 

Ten years have passed since the BBC chose to ignore the Thomas Report’s call to “get the language right”. As the past week has shown once again, that decision does not serve the corporation’s funding public by helping them understand international and domestic events and it certainly has not enhanced the BBC’s reputation as an impartial broadcaster. 

Related Articles:

Mapping the BBC’s inconsistent use of the word ‘terror’

The BBC, terrorism and ‘consistency’

No terror please, we’re the British Broadcasting Corporation

BBC News website does ‘one man’s terrorist’

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

BBC News website flip-flops on description of Brussels attacks as terrorism – part two

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC double standards on terrorism surface yet again