BBC WS airbrushes terror out of a story about Palestinian prisoners

The September 7th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Fifth Floor’ included an item described in its synopsis as follows:

“Radio messages for prisoners
Around 6,000 Palestinians are currently detained in Israeli jails, and one of the ways they get news from home is through Palestinian radio. Tala Halawa of BBC Monitoring is based in Ramallah and has been listening in.”

The introduction by presenter David Amanor (from 17:31 here) likewise did not bother to inform listeners why those people are serving time in prison or that over 2,000 of them are directly responsible for the murders of Israelis. 

Amanor: “Tala Halawa of BBC Monitoring tells me, by the way, the number of Palestinian radio stations in the West Bank has been steadily increasing over the years and so has the variety of programmes aimed at prisoners – yes, prisoners. Around six thousand are currently detained in Israeli jails and for many, radio is a vital contact with the outside world. Tala is based in the city of Ramallah.”

Having told listeners of her penchant for changing radio stations while driving, Tala Halawa went on: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Halawa: “I have been fascinated with the content of the radio programmes aimed at prisoners and their families. So this is Marasil [phonetic] which means messages in Arabic; a broadcast on Palestinian radio station Ajyal FM. The presenter Jenin Zaal is giving out the phone number for families to call with messages for prisoners. Her show lasts for 90 minutes and goes out every Friday. I met her in the radio station in Ramallah city centre.

Jenin told me that those 90 minutes are among the most important in her life but she says the programme is very draining. She says she could never give it up; it’s one way she feels she can contribute to the Palestinian cause and do something for her homeland. The promo for Marasil [phonetic] says the programme breaks down prison bars. You can hear that messages like this one from a wife to her imprisoned husband.”

After listeners heard a voice-over of the message, Halawa went on to give her own interpretations:

Halawa: “This is a kind of a typical news a wife would share with her imprisoned husband knowing that thousands are listening to her call. She wants to tell him how much she misses him but in a relatively conservative society she keeps the conversation limited to their kids’ news. To excel in school is a very important matter in the Palestinian context so it’s always the main topic to discuss on air. Spending too much time on social media platforms and computer games concerns all parents.

I also talked to a former prisoner Rula Abu Daho. She’s now a lecturer in Birzeit University and she’s one of the leading figures in women and gender studies in the Palestinian context. Rula said that getting a message from your family through the radio was almost like a visit. Of course it’s a one-way communication but it still feels like a visit. This is Jenin Zaal taking a call from a girl whose mother is in prison.”

After listeners heard another voice-over Halawa went on:

Halawa: “Another former prisoner Esmat Mansour who spent 20 years in prison. During that time he learned Hebrew and now he established a career in journalism. Esmat told me that he found out from the radio that his 20 year imprisonment was about to end. He said that the prison administration just would not say when his release date was. But then some fellow prisoners in the yard started calling him and telling him to listen to Ajyal FM. When he turned on the radio he heard his own family saying how they were preparing celebrations to welcome him back the next day. So, at least, the waiting was over.

I met Mansour for the first time in 2014. He never mentioned that he knew about his release from the radio programme. That was a surprise for me and this made me realise that those programmes are not simply two hours of broadcast: they carry a heavy load of human stories that deserve to be heard.”

Obviously Tala Halawa’s interest in “human stories that deserve to be heard” does not extend beyond the people she presents as ‘prisoners’ without the provision of any context whatsoever. BBC World Service listeners were not told that the quoted university lecturer Rula Abu Daho was imprisoned for her part in the murder of Yigal Shahaf in 1987.

“Dusk was settling over the Old City, reaching into its labyrinthine alleys and shrouding its holy sites as Yigal and Ronit Shahaf made their way slowly toward the Damascus Gate. The young couple, chatting in Hebrew with two friends, paid little heed to the dwindling crowds or the shopkeepers closing for the day.

Nearby, four young Palestinians, three men and a woman, waited. When the Israelis paused in front of a jewelry shop near the Via Dolorosa, one of the men ran toward them, aimed a pistol at the back of Yigal Shahaf’s head and fired one shot.

As chaos broke out, the gunman fled, handing his weapon to one of his comrades, who gave it to the woman, a college student who had just joined the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a radical faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The woman, Rula abu Duhou, 19, paid with nine years in prison for her participation in the slaying of an innocent Israeli civilian. And still today, freed by a controversial amnesty, she is unrepentant.

“I’m not sorry for it,” Abu Duhou said recently, her dark eyes direct, as relatives and friends streamed into her family’s comfortable West Bank home to celebrate her release. “On the contrary, I’m proud. And I wish I could do more for my country.””

Neither were BBC World Service listeners informed that the ‘journalist’ Esmat Mansour “spent 20 years in prison” because he took part in the murder of Chaim Mizrahi in 1993 or that since his release in 2013 he has received financial benefits for his part in that act of terror.

“In a typical homecoming package, the Palestinian self-rule government gave him $50,000, the rank of colonel and a monthly stipend of 6,000 shekels ($1,725), a higher-than-average income.”

A month before this item was aired on BBC World Service radio the partially licence fee funded BBC department BBC Monitoring – which purports to “to provide news, information and insight to BBC journalists, UK government customers and commercial subscribers, allowing users to make well-informed decisions” – found it appropriate to publish similar ‘analysis’ by Ramallah based Tala Halawa under the title “The ‘private space’ radio offers to Palestinian prisoners“.

There too Halawa showcased contributions from Rula Abu Daho and Esmat Mansour – but with no mention whatsoever of their involvement in acts of terror. She did however tell subscribers that:

“It is estimated that around 6,000 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli jails as a result of the ongoing conflict between the two sides. Palestinians see them as prisoners of war or political prisoners under international law, while Israel disputes this, saying they are terrorists or active in illegal terrorist organisations.”

As has been noted here on previous occasions, the idea that people who have been convicted of perpetrating acts of terrorism are ‘political prisoners’ is rejected in Europe and we certainly do not see the BBC promoting the notion that people imprisoned in the UK for terror related offences may legitimately be defined in such terms.

These two reports further indicate that the BBC has not adequately addressed the issue of politicisation of Middle East related content produced by local staff and the serious question marks that raises regarding the impartiality of BBC content. 

Related Articles:

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The BBC uncritically amplifies Corbyn’s PFLP and ‘platform’ denials

Four days after he attended the controversial wreath-laying ceremony in Tunis in October 2014, Jeremy Corbyn had an article published in the ‘Morning Star’ in which he described that event, an additional one and the conference which had preceded them.

“A one-day conference was held under the auspices of the Centre for Strategic Studies for North Africa, just north of Tunis, near Carthage, attended by all Palestinian groups. […]

The conference was welcomed by the President of Tunisia Dr Moncef Marzouki and heard opening speeches from Palestinian groups including Fatah, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine as well as solidarity from the Turkish parliament and international support. […]

In my own speech to the conference there was great enthusiasm for the prospects of a British parliamentary vote on October 13 on Palestinian statehood.”

In other words, Corbyn was fully aware of the fact that members of at least two proscribed terrorist organisations – Hamas and the PFLP – were at that conference and was perfectly happy to share a platform with them.

However, when The Times published a photograph of Corbyn standing next to PFLP leader Maher al Taher at that wreath-laying ceremony, the BBC’s domestic audiences heard reports which made no mention of Corbyn’s 2014 article in the ‘Morning Star’.

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on August 16th were told (from 23:30 here) that: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “Jeremy Corbyn has told BBC News he didn’t know anything about the background of a senior figure in a banned Palestinian militant organisation that he appeared alongside in 2014. He shared a platform with Maher al Taher in Tunisia. Our political correspondent Susana Mendonça reports.”

Mendonça: “Maher al Taher is a senior figure of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine which has been linked to a terror attack on a synagogue complex in West Jerusalem in 2014, where a British rabbi was among those killed. It’s emerged that the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was pictured alongside him at a memorial event at a cemetery in Tunis as part of a Palestinian rights conference. Mr Corbyn has been coming under criticism for attending a wreath-laying there which took place near memorials for people who were accused of having links to a terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympic Games. But he has said that he was there to honour innocent people killed in a 1985 Israeli airstrike and has denied having any knowledge about who he was sharing a platform with.”

Recording Corbyn: “I don’t share platforms with terrorists. I don’t believe in killing people. I have attended memorial events for those that have died in the sadness of all these conflicts and that is my position.”

Mendonça: “The Labour Party has complained to the press watchdog IPSO about newspaper coverage of the visit to Tunisia.”

The PFLP was not merely “linked” to the Har Nof terror attack (which the BBC refrained from describing as such at the time) in which six people were murdered: it claimed responsibility for it.

Once again BBC audiences were not told that the context to Corbyn’s statements is the fact that the 1985 Israeli airstrike on the PLO HQ in Tunis came in response to a Palestinian terror attack against Israeli civilians in Cyprus.

On the same evening listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ were informed by newsreader Neil Nunes (from 05:23 here) that:

Nunes: “Jeremy Corbyn said he didn’t know anything about the background of a senior figure in a Palestinian militant organisation that he appeared alongside in 2014. The Labour leader attended a memorial event in Tunisia with Maher al Taher from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The group has been linked to an attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem in 2014; a British rabbi was among those killed. Mr Corbyn rejected any suggestion that he condoned violence.”

Recording Corbyn: “I don’t share platforms with terrorists. I don’t believe in killing people. I have attended memorial events for those that have died in the sadness of all these conflicts and that is my position.”

Interviewer: “And the person they’re talking about: did you knowingly share a platform…”

Corbyn [interrupts]: “No, I was unaware of any of his background.”

Once again the BBC refrained from informing audiences that the PFLP has not just “been linked to” the Har Nof attack but actually issued a formal statement stating that the two terrorists belonged to its ranks.

The same omission appeared in an article published on the BBC News website’s ‘UK Politics’ page on August 16th under the headline “Jeremy Corbyn ‘unaware’ of militant group figure“.

“Jeremy Corbyn has said he did not know that a man he stood next to at a wreath-laying ceremony was a senior member of a militant Palestinian group.

Maher Taher, of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), was pictured alongside the Labour leader at a 2014 event in Tunis.

The PLFP was later linked to an attack on an Israeli synagogue. The US and EU consider it to be a terrorist group.

Mr Corbyn told the BBC: “I was unaware of any of his background.””

Readers of that report also found the quotes from Corbyn promoted in the above two news bulletins.

“I don’t share platforms with terrorists,” Mr Corbyn said. “I don’t believe in killing people.

“I have attended memorial events for those that have died in the sadness of all of these conflicts, and that is my position.”

Failing yet again to provide audiences with the relevant context, the report continued:

“Mr Corbyn has said that his attendance at the wreath-laying was to honour innocent people killed in a 1985 Israeli air strike on the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) headquarters in Tunis.”

The report went on to provide readers with a link to a profile of the PFLP which was first published by the BBC following the Har Nof attack. Nearly four years on, that profile – previously discussed here – is still illustrated with an inaccurate photograph and has still not been updated to reflect the correct number of victims murdered in that attack.

“The PLFP was formed as a resistance movement after the occupation of the West Bank by Israel in 1967. It is treated as a terrorist organisation by the US and European Union.”

It is therefore unsurprising to see that this article also gives readers an inaccurate account of the number of people killed in that terror attack.

“In November 2014, two members of the group armed with axes stormed a synagogue complex in West Jerusalem and killed four rabbis – including British-born Avraham Shmuel Goldberg. According to reports at the time, it was not clear how involved the PFLP leadership had been in the attack.”

As we see, while domestic BBC audiences saw and heard multiple uncritical amplifications of Corbyn’s denials concerning Maher al Taher and his disingenuous claim that he does not share platforms with terrorists, the BBC made no effort to inform them of Corbyn’s October 2014 ‘Morning Star’ article in which he clearly stated that he had appeared at an event together with representatives of two proscribed terrorist organisations.

Related Articles:

BBC R4 listeners hear more ‘contextualisation’ of Corbyn wreath-laying

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part one

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part two

Over a third of BBC website’s Corbyn wreath laying report allocated to denials 

 

 

 

 

 

Over a third of BBC website’s Corbyn wreath laying report allocated to denials

A report which appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘UK Politics’ page on the afternoon of August 13th was initially headlined “Jeremy Corbyn pressed over ‘terror memorial’ claims”. Roughly two hours later the word terror was dropped from the headline, which was amended to read “Jeremy Corbyn ‘wreath laying’ attacked by Israeli PM“. The report was also posted on the website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

As noted on these pages last September, for decades BBC News has refrained from describing the members of the PLO faction that perpetrated the Munich Olympics massacre as terrorists. Surprisingly, the word terror was used in this report’s opening line:

“Israel’s PM has criticised Jeremy Corbyn over his presence at a ceremony said to have honoured the perpetrators of the 1972 Munich terror attack.”

However, the report later returned to form: [emphasis added]

“The questions were in response to a Daily Mail front page featuring photographs it said showed the Labour leader near memorials to members of the militant Black September group behind the 1972 attack.

Eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by the Palestinian group at the 1972 summer games in Munich.”

Sixty-nine of the 778 words used in the report described the Israeli prime minister’s tweet criticising Corbyn’s participation in a 2014 event in Tunisia commemorating members of the ‘Black September’ terrorist faction responsible for the brutal murders of Israeli citizens. Forty-nine words were used to give readers background on the Munich Olympics attack itself and a further fifty-seven words related to the Daily Mail article published three days earlier which once again brought a story that first emerged in 2017 into the spotlight.

Amplification of the denials of Corbyn and the Labour Party concerning that event accounted for 35% of the article’s total word count and a further 77 words – including Labour Party denials – related to a previous event in 2013. 

Readers were told that:

“Benjamin Netanyahu said Mr Corbyn deserved “unequivocal condemnation” for laying a wreath on the grave of one of those behind the atrocity.

Mr Corbyn said Mr Netanyahu’s claims about his “actions… are false”.

The Labour leader said he had attended the event in Tunis in 2014 as part of a wider event about the search for peace.”

BBC audiences were not however informed that the “wider event about the search for peace” – subsequently also described as “a conference” – was titled the “International Conference on Monitoring the Palestinian Political and Legal Situation in the Light of Israeli Aggression” or that – as also reported by the Daily Mail – its participants included a senior Hamas official featured in past BBC content.

“At the event in Tunisia, top Hamas leader Oussama Hamdan presented a ‘four point vision to fight against Israel’ and praised the group’s ‘great success on the military and national levels’, adding that the violence was ‘magnificent’.

He had just given an interview to Lebanese media in which he said that the anti-Semitic myth that Jews drank Christian blood was ‘not a figment of imagination or something taken from a film. It is a fact.’

Othman Jerandi, a former Tunisian foreign minister, also gave a speech at the conference and stated: ‘ISIS and Israel are the same thing’.

Other delegates included activist Zaher Al-Birawi, who is close to the leadership of Hamas; and lawyer Sabagh al-Mukhtar, who appeared as an expert witness to support extremist cleric Abu Hamza before he was deported from Britain.”

Birawi is of course the UK-based activist involved in the organisation of both the recent failed ‘flotilla’ and the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting that has been taking place along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip for the past four and a half months. Birawi was also previously the director of the Hamas-linked ‘Palestinian Return Centre’ which has in the past donated to Jeremy Corbyn.   

Together with Corbyn at the wreath-laying ceremony linked to that ‘conference’ was a member of the PFLP terror group and a Fatah official who has appeared in BBC content.

Despite Corbyn having subsequently made statements that contradict the claim from “Labour’s press team”, readers of this report were told that:  

“On Sunday Labour’s press team said: “The Munich widows are being misled. Jeremy did not honour those responsible for the Munich killings.””

In an insert of ‘analysis’ from the BBC’s political correspondent Tom Barton readers found amplification of Corbyn’s ‘whataboutery’ – with no mention made of the fact that a significant proportion of those killed during the violent rioting and attacks were linked to terror factions – as well as amplification of a baseless but unattributed allegation.

“In his reply, Jeremy Corbyn described the Israeli Prime Minister’s accusations as false. But he also took the opportunity to say that the killing of Palestinian protesters in Gaza by Israeli forces deserves “unequivocal condemnation”. His supporters say the purpose of Benjamin Netanyahu’s message is to shut down that sort of criticism of Israel’s actions.”

In contrast to the 269 words used to report denials from Corbyn and the Labour Party, statements made by “critics” were afforded 108 words.

The BBC’s report stated that in relation to his presence at the wreath-laying ceremony, Corbyn said:

“I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who has died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it.”

Readers were later told that:

“In a tweet, Labour said he and other Parliamentarians had been honouring victims of the 1985 Israeli bombings.”

As noted at the Times of Israel, the context to those statements – which the BBC did not bother to provide – is the fact that what audiences saw described as “Israeli bombings” was the response to another brutal Palestinian terror attack.

“The “terrorist incident” he was apparently referring to was an Israeli air force strike on the PLO headquarters in 1985 in response to the hijacking of an Israeli yacht and the execution of three Israeli passengers.

PLO leader Yasser Arafat escaped unharmed although several of his bodyguards and several civilians were killed in the strike, which completely destroyed the headquarters.”

Remarkably, the BBC had no ‘analysis’ to offer its audiences on the topic of the leader of a British political party – and potential prime minister – who apparently thinks that a counter-terrorism operation against the headquarters of a terrorist organisation which had claimed the brutal murders of three civilians was a “terrorist incident”. 

Related Articles:

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BBC ignores British links to failed ‘flotilla’ agitprop

Late last month we noted that a small propaganda ‘flotilla’ bound for the Gaza Strip was expected to arrive in the region around the end of July.

The first boat was intercepted on July 29th.

“The Israeli Navy on Sunday stopped a boat that was trying to break the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip and started to tow the vessel to the port in Ashdod.

The “Freedom Flotilla” group said that the boat had been “seized” and that the ship had received a warning from the navy prior to the interception. […]

“The forces made it clear to the boat that it was violating the blockade and that any humanitarian supplies [it is carrying] can be delivered to Gaza through the port of Ashdod,” the military said in a statement. “The activity ended without any unusual incidents. The boat is being towed to the port of Ashdod at this time.””

The ‘medical supplies’ that the organisers claimed the boat was carrying amounted to this:

photo credit: COGAT

On August 4th it was announced that the second boat had been intercepted.

“The IDF announced Saturday morning that it had stopped a boat attempting to break the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip. The military said in a statement that there were no “exceptional events” during the course of the incident, and that the boat was towed to port in Ashdod. […]

The flotilla was organized by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, an umbrella of organizations aiming to end the closure of Gaza, and set sail from the Danish port of Copenhagen. […]

The flotilla’s two-month journey saw the ships stopping off at several European ports to take part in activities supporting the Palestinians’ so-called “March of Return.””

The link between the flotilla and the ‘Great Return March’ is of course not coincidental: as noted here previously, one of the organisers of both those publicity stunts is UK-based Zaher Birawi who, as the Jerusalem Post reports, “was designated as a member of a terrorist organization – Hamas Headquarters in Europe – by Israel’s Justice Ministry in 2013”.

Despite the connections of the British based activist to a potentially incendiary publicity stunt staged by an organisation with links to more than one terror group,  the BBC apparently did not consider this story to be of interest even to its domestic audiences – which of course include British MPs and Peers who have in the past been briefed by Zaher Birawi on topics such as “violence in the occupied territories” or attended events in Parliament put on by one of the other organisations with which he is involved.

 

 

Serialised propaganda, omission and inaccuracy on BBC R4’s ‘Book of the Week’

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Book of the Week’ is described as:

“Serialised book readings, featuring works of non-fiction, biography, autobiography, travel, diaries, essays, humour and history”

Last week’s five episodes featured a book titled “Where the Line is Drawn” by Raja Shehadeh.

Episode One – July 23rd:

“Raja Shehadeh is an award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human right’s [sic] organisation, Al Haq. In Where the Line is Drawn he reflects on his forty year friendship with Henry, a Jewish Israeli. As idealistic young men when they first meet in 1977, they connect over shared interests in literature, writing and walking. As the years pass, their friendship is challenged by history, politics, enmity and violence, but it also points the way to a common future. Raja Shehadeh’s books include Occupation Diaries; Language of War, Language of Peace and Palestinian Walks which won the 2008 Orwell Prize. He has contributed to The New York Times, The Guardian and Granta.”

Episode Two – July 24th:

“Raja Shehadeh, the award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human rights organisation, Al Haq, visits Jaffa, the city from which his father was exiled during the Nakba in 1948 when 750,000 were forced from their homes with the end of the British Mandate and the creation of Israel. It’s now 1978 and he is staying with Jewish friends who moved into one of the old Arab houses in Jaffa. He is curious about their choice of home.”

Episode Three – July 25th:

“Raja Shehadeh, the award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human rights organisation, Al Haq recollects a humiliating experience on his way home to Ramallah.”

Episode Four – July 26th:

“Raja Shehadeh, the award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human rights organisation, Al Haq, remembers a terrifying night time drive. Meanwhile, tense times lie ahead for Raja and Henry as the new millennium dawns.”

Episode Five – July 27th:

“Raja Shehadeh, the award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human rights organisation, Al Haq receives shocking news and he comes to a new understanding about the value of his friendship with Henry. He also reflects on the controversial killing of a young Palestinian attacker by a teenage Israeli soldier who was later jailed for manslaughter.”

Although the NGO ‘Al Haq’ is mentioned in each and every one of those five synopses, BBC Radio 4 audiences were given no information about the political agenda of that so-called “human rights organisation” or its alleged ties to a terror group.

Despite the frequent references to “illegal occupation” and “occupied territories”, no proper historic context was provided to listeners throughout the entire series. In episode one listeners were told that “Israelis…in 1967 had taken the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Jordan” without any mention of the fact that Jordan illegally occupied those areas for 19 years.

Listeners to episode one heard a partisan description of the circumstances in which Palestinians including Shehadeh’s father – also a lawyer – left their homes which left them with the inaccurate impression that they were universally “forced out”.

“In 1948 during the Nakba, where around 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes with the establishment of Israel, he lost his practice, his home, and all his properties. And he had to start all over again in Ramallah.”

In episode two listeners heard a reference to Jaffa as “my father’s city from which he was exiled” and were again told that in 1948:

“…with the end of the British Mandate and the establishment of Israel, around 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes. The Palestinians who managed to stay were placed in the Ajami quarter surrounded by barbed wire. It was like a ghetto.”

Listeners also heard that in 1967 “I drove with my parents to visit the city they had been forced to leave 19 years earlier.”

Notably, when Raja Shehadeh appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ in 2014, he told a rather different version of that story: a version in which his parents were not “forced to leave” Jaffa but decided to relocate to their second home.

“Jaffa it’s very hot and humid in the summer and so they had a summer-house in Ramallah. When hostilities began they decided it’s safer in Ramallah because it was getting rather dangerous actually – physically dangerous – so they decided, towards the end of April, to take that short drive down to Ramallah – short drive from Jaffa – and my father always thought that if the worst happens – that is the partition – Jaffa was going to be on the Arab side so they will always be able to go back. And they took very few things with them and they were never able to go back.”

Throughout the five episodes listeners heard Israelis described as “settlers” (regardless of their place of residence in Israel) and “colonisers”. Notably, all the Israeli voices in the dramatisation were done in a bizarre quasi-American accent – regardless of where they were born – which implied that they were ‘foreigners’. In episode two listeners heard the story of Shehadeh’s visit to a plant nursery in which he asked how the owner – described as a woman from Canada – “could establish her nursery on land expropriated from villagers who were now forced to live in crowded refugee camps with no land to cultivate for themselves” and accused her of ‘exploiting’ the land.

Listeners also heard a context-free account of the beginning of the second Intifada – described as “futile” rather than wrong – and justification of terrorism:

“Israel was fighting for the retention of this land. We were fighting to end the occupation in accordance with international law which gave us the right to resist.” [episode three]

“…the human and political issues that led these young men to brutally kill themselves, and others, in despair.”

In episode three listeners were told that Shehadeh’s father had been “murdered…by a collaborator working for Israel” even though it was later admitted that “no-one was ever charged”.

In episode five listeners heard the wave of Palestinian terrorism which began in the autumn of 2015 described thus:

“This uprising was different. There was no unified leadership guiding these young men and women. They had no political platform or concrete demands. They simply improvised ways of resisting. Some of these were non-violent, others violent involving the stabbing of not only soldiers but also innocent Israelis. The Israeli government responded with violence, defining all resistance as terrorism.”

Also in episode five listeners heard a long section relating to an incident in Hebron in March 2016 which was inaccurately portrayed as having begun when:

“Abdul Fattah al Sharif, 21, from the occupied old city of Hebron lay on the ground shot after he allegedly tried to stab an Israeli soldier.” [emphasis added]

As the BBC’s own reports on that incident show, the words “allegedly” and “tried to” are completely superfluous and materially misleading.

“Sharif and another 21-year-old Palestinian, Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, had stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier before troops opened fire on them, wounding Sharif and killing Qasrawi.”

There is of course much more on which to comment in these 75 minutes of entirely one-sided stories which completely erase Palestinian agency and responsibility and prompted Sunday Times journalist Rod Liddle to write to the BBC.

“A nice man called Andrew in the BBC Press Office is kind enough to send me a list of stuff the corporation is doing each week. […]

I have never replied to Andrew’s email, but I did last week because I had been listening to the book that Radio 4 was serialising. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Andrew,

Many thanks for your weekly bulletins about what the BBC is up to. I wonder if you could answer my inquiry below, or pass it on to someone who can.

Here’s the thing. I am hugely enjoying the serialisation on Radio 4 of the Palestinian writer Raja Shehadeh’s entertaining book, How My People Were Robbed, Murdered and Crushed by the Vile Occupying Fascist Israeli State. I may have got the title slightly wrong, for which apologies. I was wondering if the BBC intended, at any point, to serialise a book that might give a contrary point of view on this disputatious issue — perhaps by an Israeli?

All the best,
Rod

I got a friendly acknowledgment from Andrew — and later a two-line reply from the BBC, stating that the corporation’s coverage is impartial. Mr Shehadeh has spent most of his life railing against Israel and Jews, while claiming to be a moderate. And his book is serialised by Radio 4. Of course, it will not serialise a book by an Israeli to provide the political balance that the corporation is duty bound to strive for (even if, frankly, it doesn’t strive terribly hard).”

That just about sums it up.

Related Articles:

Desert Island distortions on BBC Radio 4

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ mainstreams anti-Israel delegitimisation

 

 

Eleven years online for a BBC promoted conspiracy theory

This week marked the 42nd anniversary of the operation in which 103 hostages were rescued from Entebbe airport by the IDF – Operation Yonatan.

Over the years the BBC has produced numerous reports relating to that event but one in particular – which is still available online – stands out.

On June 6th 2007 the BBC News website found fit to publish a report by Dan Parkinson titled “Israel hijack role ‘was queried’” in which BBC audiences were told that:

“It has been seen as a daring raid by crack Israeli troops to rescue dozens of their countrymen held at the mercy of hijackers.

But newly released documents contain a claim that the 1976 rescue of hostages, kidnapped on an Air France flight and held in Entebbe in Uganda, was not all it seemed.

A UK government file on the crisis, released from the National Archives, contains a claim that Israel itself was behind the hijacking.

An unnamed contact from the Euro-Arab Parliamentary Association told a British diplomat in Paris that the Israeli Secret Service, the Shin Bet, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) collaborated to seize the plane. […]

In the document, written on 30 June 1976 when the crisis was still unresolved, DH Colvin of the Paris Embassy writes of his Euro-Arab Parliamentary Association source: “According to his information, the hijack was the work of the PFLP, with help from the Israeli Secret Service, the Shin Beit.

“The operation was designed to torpedo the PLO’s standing in France and to prevent what they see as a growing rapprochement between the PLO and the Americans.”

He adds: “My contact said the PFLP had attracted all sorts of wild elements, some of whom had been planted by the Israelis.””

After eleven years it is surely time for the BBC to remove that ridiculous conspiracy theory from its website – not least for the sake of its own organisational credibility. 

Revisiting a 2014 BBC report by Jon Donnison

Readers may recall that four years ago the BBC’s Jon Donnison reported on the death of a Palestinian man while concealing the fact that he was a member of a proscribed terror organisation and portraying him instead as a ‘charity worker’.

In his July 2014 filmed report for BBC News Donnison told audiences the following story:

“Palestinian grief. Not in Gaza, but in the West Bank. Hashem Abu Maria was shot dead by Israeli soldiers last week as he demonstrated against Israel’s actions in Gaza. He was 47 years old, a father of three and worked for a children’s charity. By his graveside his wife Samira tells me Hashem gave his life trying to protect children.”

While Donnison did not state the name of that “children’s charity”, as was noted here at the time Abu Maria worked for the political NGO Defence for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-P or DCI-Pal). 

However, he was also described as a “fighter commander” in an obituary published by the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and as a “commander” in a poster put out by the terror group on social media.

The longstanding links between the PFLP and the ‘children’s charity’ DCI-Pal were noted in a recent article at Tablet Magazine concerning donations made to a Palestinian coalition that includes proscribed terror groups via an American non-profit organisation that supports the anti-Israel BDS campaign.

“As publicly available resources in Arabic show, the DCIP has had several previous board members and staffers who have been involved with the PFLP. They include DCIP board member Hassan Abed Aljawad, a PFLP leader representing the terrorist organization at public events as recently as 2016; DCIP board member Mahmoud Jiddah, a former PFLP member who had been jailed for 17 years for carrying out grenade attacks against Israeli civilians in Jerusalem in 1968; DCIP board secretary and attorney Fatima Daana, who is the widow of Raed Nazzal, former commander of the PFLP’s armed wing in Qalqilya; DCIP former board member Shawan Jabarin, who was convicted of recruiting members to the PFLP in 1985 and identified in 1994 by Israel to the U.N. Commission of Human Rights as being a senior member of the PFLP; DCIP former board member Hashem Abu Maria, identified by the PFLP as one of its “deputy comrades” and a “fighting commander” in an obituary published on the PFLP website in Arabic and killed during a violent clash with IDF forces (the DCIP’s 2014 report is dedicated to Abu Maria); DCIP former board member Nassar Ibrahim, the former editor in chief of the PFLP weekly publication, El Hadaf; and DCIP former board member Dr. Majed Nassar, the deputy director of the Union of Health Work Committees, which was identified by USAID as a PFLP affiliate in 1993.”

An article also published earlier this month at the Jerusalem Post noted that:

“The Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), a major American foundation that contributes to many pro-Palestinian causes, gave grants to organizations which funnel money and support to terrorist groups, and continued to do so after being told about the NGOs’ activities, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The two organizations are Education for Just Peace in the Middle East, also known as the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and Defense for Children International-Palestine, which received grants of $60,000 and $25,000, respectively, from the RBF in March 2017. [….]

In addition to the RBF, DCI-P receives money from UNICEF as an “implementing partner” for the UN agency’s projects, even though it violates both UNICEF and UN guidelines for partners to be “neutral, impartial and independent from all parties to the conflict.””

Readers may recall that in July 2017 the BBC’s Stephen Sackur cited a UNICEF report based on information produced by DCI-Pal that he described to BBC audiences as “saying the ill-treatment of children who came into contact with the military detention system in the West Bank appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised”.

The article continues:

“DCI-P employee Hashem Abu Maria was hailed as a leader of the PFLP, after he was killed by the IDF in a violent confrontation in Beit Umar in July 2014. DCI-P director Rifat Odeh Kassis spoke at Abu Maria’s memorial service, surrounded by PFLP flags and posters.

The PFLP wrote on its website that Abu Maria “was in the ranks of the national liberation struggle and the PFLP from an early age, arrested several times, and was a model for a steadfast struggler and advocate for the rights of our people through his work in Defense for Children International.””

Four years after its initial appearance, Jon Donnison’s 2014 filmed report – “West Bank Palestinians politically divided, but united in anger” – is still available online. No effort has been made to amend it in order to clarify to BBC audiences that the man sympathetically described only as a charity worker was also a member of a terror organisation.

Given that last year the BBC pledged that “complaints about online material more than 30 days old will be dealt with appropriately”, obviously that amendment is long overdue.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Jon Donnison misrepresents PFLP ‘fighter commander’ as charity worker

Revisiting the BBC News website’s PFLP profile

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At Tablet Magazine, Armin Rosen and Liel Leibovitz document “Connections between an American charity and Hamas, PFLP, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad”.

“Over the past decade, as the prospects of peace between Israelis and Palestinians became ever slimmer, there has been a growing attention to—and, in some quarters, acceptance of—the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement targeting Israel, or BDS. Those drawn to the cause have likely come across the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, a Virginia-based nonprofit organization that serves as the American umbrella group of the BDS movement and is arguably the most prominent promoter of BDS in the United States. The US Campaign, which is officially called Education for Just Peace in the Middle East, coordinates the efforts of 329 different pro-BDS organizations “working to advocate for Palestinian rights and a shift in US policy … bound by commonly shared principles on Palestine solidarity as well as our anti-racism principles,” according to the group’s website.

But as Tablet confirmed, the group also helps facilitate tax-exempt donations to a Palestinian coalition that includes Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups the U.S. State Department designates as terror organizations.”

2) Jonathan Spyer discusses “Iran’s response: the ‘Strategy of Tension’“.

“The United States and its allies are currently in the opening stages of the pursuit of a strategy to contain and roll back the Islamic Republic of Iran from a number of points in the Middle East.  This strategy is set to include an economic element (renewed sanctions, a military aspect (involving Israeli action against Iran in Syria, and the Saudi/UAE campaign against the Houthis in Yemen, and a primarily political effort (in Iraq and to a lesser extent in Lebanon).

Iran can be expected to respond with a counter-strategy of its own, designed to stymy and frustrate western and allied efforts.  What form will this Iranian response take?  What assets does Iran possess in the furtherance of this goal?”

3) NGO Monitor has published a report on grants given to Israeli NGOs (some of which are regularly quoted and promoted in BBC content) between the years 2012 and 2016.

“Given the central role played by politicized non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the public human rights discourse, transparency in NGO funding is required in order to bolster informed debate. The following analysis presents all grants reported annually by 39 Israeli NGOs in the years 2012-2016, organizing data according to the amount of the grant, the identity of the donor, the source of the grant (private, governmental, or non-transparent/ unclear) and whether the donor is recognized as a government or from church groups. […]

Of the 39 groups examined, 28 receive more than 50% of their funding from governments. The three NGOs receiving the highest share of foreign government funding are Akevot (100%), Terrestrial Jerusalem (99.66%), and Who Profits (94.49%).

25 governmental and intergovernmental entities – including the EU, UN, and the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (see below) – fund these 39 Israeli NGOs. Germany is the largest donor, providing NIS 49,688,588, followed by the EU and Norway.”

4) At the Algemeiner, Efraim Karsh explains why “In Gaza, It’s Not the Economy, Stupid“.

“…at the time Arafat launched his war of terrorism in September 2000, Palestinian income per capita was nearly double Syria’s, more than four times that of Yemen, and 10% higher than Jordan’s — one of the better-off Arab states. Only the oil-rich Gulf states and Lebanon were more affluent.

By the time of Arafat’s death in November 2004, his terrorism war had slashed this income to a fraction of its earlier levels, with real GDP per capita some 35% below the pre-September 2000 level, unemployment more than double, and numerous Palestinians reduced to poverty and despondency. And while Israel’s suppression of the terrorism war generated a steady recovery, with the years 2007-2011 even recording an average yearly growth above 8%, by mid-2014 a full blown recession had taken hold, especially in the Gaza Strip.

Indeed, apart from reflecting the West Bank’s basic socioeconomic superiority vis-à-vis Gaza, the widening gap between the two areas during the Oslo years (the difference in per capita income shot up from 14% to 141%) was a direct corollary of Hamas’ transformation of the Strip into an unreconstructed terrorist entity, in contrast to the West Bank’s relative tranquility in the post-intifada years.”

 

BBC News continues to link terror to US embassy move

On the afternoon of March 16th a vehicular attack took place near Mevo Dotan.

“A Palestinian driver hit four Israeli soldiers with his car Friday afternoon, killing an officer and a soldier and seriously injuring the others, outside the Mevo Dotan settlement in the northern West Bank. One of the injured soldiers suffered severe head trauma and was fighting for his life.

The military confirmed that the incident was a terror attack. It said the troops were hit while standing near a military guard post.”

A few hours later the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israeli soldiers killed in West Bank car attack” on its Middle East page.  

In line with standard BBC practice, the word terror does not appear anywhere in this report.

“A Palestinian man has driven his car into a group of Israeli troops in the north of the occupied West Bank, killing an officer and a soldier, the Israeli military says. […]

Two other soldiers were injured in the incident.” [emphasis added]

Readers were not told that at the time the article was published, one of the injured soldiers was in serious condition after suffering severe head trauma. Neither were they informed that the terrorist received treatment in an Israeli hospital after the incident.

“The suspect fled from the scene but was later detained. Reports said he was lightly injured.”

The report states:

“The Israeli military said the soldiers had been securing routes near the settlement of Mevo Dotan.”

Readers were not informed that the soldiers were securing that route because – as the Jerusalem Post and others reported:

“Palestinian protesters had been throwing rocks and molotov cocktails toward the road”.  

The BBC did, however, include its standard partial mantra on ‘international law’ in the report.

“The incident happened near the Jewish settlement of Mevo Dotan, west of the Palestinian town of Jenin. […]

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

As has so often been the case in BBC reports relating to Palestinian terrorism and violence published since early December 2017, this article suggests linkage between the attack and US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel over three months ago.

“The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas hailed the car-ramming incident but did not say it was behind it.

The incident happened amid high tension on Friday after Hamas called for protests to mark 100 days since US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

Hamas had in fact called for a ‘Day of Rage’ rather than “protests” and the attack was also praised by additional Palestinian factions: the PIJ, the DFLP and the PFLP.

The report goes on:

“The US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but has infuriated Palestinians.

The declaration broke with decades of US neutrality on the issue and put it out of step with the rest of the international community.”

In fact, the US Congress of course voted to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital over two decades ago.

The BBC’s article closes with a quote from an AFP report:

“More than 30 Palestinians and four Israelis have been killed in violence since Mr Trump’s declaration, AFP reported.”

Once again, readers were not told how many of the Palestinians killed were engaged in terror attacks or violent rioting at the time and the BBC refrained from clarifying that a higher number of  Israelis were murdered in terror attacks by Palestinians in the three months before the US president made his declaration than in the three months since. 

Related Articles:

BBC News goes from not reporting car rammings as terror to not reporting at all

BBC News continues to blame Palestinian violence on US

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ promotes equivalence between violent rioters and victims of terror

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Denmark and Norway recently announced cuts in funding to Palestinian NGOs supporting BDS and/or with links to the PFLP terror group. In an interview at the Gatestone Institute, Professor Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor – which has conducted contributing research on the topic – explains.

“NGO funding – under the banner of “development” and “civil society” — has been a major part of Western European foreign policy for the past two or three decades. In addition, many of the countries give money to NGO networks because they see that other countries are doing so. They figure that if others are doing it, it must be good for Europe. Moreover, much of the system is faith-based, in the sense that all a group has to say to garner the support of many European politicians is that its mission is to promote human rights. The words have a “halo effect,” a term used in psychology to describe the tendency to favorably judge people, companies, groups, products, and so forth, based on the image of morality or some other positive factor. In the context of NGOs, groups that claim to promote values seen as universally good – such as peace, human rights, justice and coexistence – are automatically perceived as credible and above criticism or investigation.”

2) Also at the Gatestone Institute, Khaled Abu Toameh reports on a story involving the Palestinian Authority of the type that BBC audiences never hear.

“Mohammed Al-Dayeh has been under interrogation on suspicion of establishing and managing two Facebook pages – “Sons of the Martyrs” and “No to Corruption.” The Palestinian Authority claims that both accounts were used to wage a smear campaign against top Palestinian officials and accuse them of financial and administrative corruption.

There is only one small problem regarding the charges against Al-Dayeh: The man cannot read or write, and as such there is no way he could have posted the offensive remarks on Facebook.”

3) Just days before the protests in Iran began Raz Zimmt of the INSS published an article that provides background to that story.

“Since his reelection, Iranian President Rouhani has pursued a policy that to a great extent disregards the demands of the reformists who supported him during the elections and reflects a shift toward the conservative camp. This trend is evident in the President’s political appointments, his reneging on promises of civil reforms, and the reduced tension, at least in public, vis-à-vis the Revolutionary Guards. Disappointment with the President is evident among the reformists, although the prevailing opinion is that they should continue supporting him and not risk letting the hardliners gain an upper hand. The President’s conduct reflects his identity as a fundamentally conservative politician, his priorities, the limits of his power versus the conservative establishment, and his long range political aspirations. His recognition of the limits of his power and his focus on improving the economic situation may indicate political insight, but his failure to respond to the public’s demands is liable over time to exacerbate the Iranians’ despair and pose a growing challenge to his regime.”

4) Writing at the Atlantic, Jonathan Schanzer of the FDD reports on a trial relating to Iranian sanctions evasion.

“Yesterday, Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla was found guilty in a Manhattan courtroom for a range of financial crimes. His dramatic trial revealed that tens of billions in dollars and gold moved from Turkey to Iran through a complex network of businesses, banks, and front companies. […]

A dual Iranian-Turkish national, [Reza] Zarrab was the swashbuckling gold trader who had helped Iran evade sanctions with the help of Turkish banks in 2013 and 2014, yielding Iran an estimated $13 billion at the height of the efforts to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. A leaked report by prosecutors in Istanbul in March 2014 suggested that Zarrab spearheaded a second sanctions-busting scheme involving fake invoices for billions more in fictitious humanitarian shipments to Iran that were processed through Turkish banks.”