BBC News website adheres zealously to editorial guidelines

In the 48 hours during which terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired over 450 rockets and mortars at civilian targets in Israel the BBC News website produced four written reports about the events.

Although missile attacks against civilians are clearly an act of terrorism and the people responsible for such attacks are terrorists, the BBC chose not to inform its audience of that fact and instead adhered to its much criticised editorial guidelines.

Israel kills top Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza 12/11/2019, all versions here, version 1 discussed here

The word militant or militants were used 6 times in this report in relation to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas. The words terrorist appeared twice, exclusively in a quote from an Israeli official.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Abu al-Ata an “arch-terrorist” and said he was “the main instigator of terrorism from the Gaza Strip”.

“He initiated, planned and carried out many terrorist attacks. He fired hundreds of rockets at communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip, whose suffering we have seen,” he told a news conference in Tel Aviv.”

Israel-Gaza violence spirals after killing of top Palestinian militant 12/11/2019, all versions here

The word militant or militants were used four times in this report in relation to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas, including in paraphrasing of statements made by Israeli officials. The words terror and terrorists appeared twice, in quotes from the IDF and the Israeli prime minister.

“Among the sites the IDF said it hit was what it called a “terror tunnel”, which it said the PIJ planned to use to attack Israeli civilians.”

“We’ve proven that we can hit, surgically, wherever the terrorists hide. Whoever harms us, we will harm them.”

Israel-Gaza fighting continues for second day after militant’s death 13/11/19, all versions here

The word militant or militants were used ten times in this report in relation to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas, including in paraphrasing of statements made by Israeli officials. The words terrorist and terrorists appeared twice, in quotes from the IDF and the Israeli prime minister.

“The IDF said “20 terrorists” were killed, most of them from Islamic Jihad.”

“Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, described Abu al-Ata as an “arch-terrorist” and a “ticking bomb” who posed an imminent threat to the country.”

Rockets fired at Israel after Gaza ceasefire starts 14/11/19, all versions here

The word militant or militants were used six times in this report in relation to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas. The words terrorist and terrorists appeared twice, in quotes from an IDF spokesman and the Israeli prime minister.

“The Israeli prime minister said Abu al-Ata was “responsible for most of the terror attacks in the last year from the Gaza Strip” and called him a “ticking bomb”.”

“”With a combination of military personnel from a variety of units who specialize in SIGINT [signals intelligence], HUMINT [human intelligence], we were able to attack cells and close the circle against targets very quickly. That’s what killed 25 terrorists who were in the midst of carrying out hostile activity,” he added.”

As regular readers know only too well, the BBC is considerably less zealous about its adherence to those editorial guidelines when reporting on events in other locations. Just last month an attack in Germany was appropriately described as terror on two different BBC platforms and attacks in other European locations have frequently been described in those terms.

But when millions of Israeli civilians are under relentless attack from terrorists armed with military-grade rockets and mortars, the BBC repeatedly refuses outright to describe those attacks and their perpetrators using accurate terminology.

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BBC R4’s Mishal Husain sells her listeners short with self-indulgence

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on November 13th heard two items relating to the events in Israel and the Gaza Strip which began the previous day. The second of those items comprised a report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman (which will be discussed separately) and an interview with an Israeli MK (from 2:36:32 here) which was conducted by presenter Mishal Husain in the confrontational style she so often employs when speaking to Israelis. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “On the line now is Sharren Haskel, member of the Israeli parliament for the Likud party and a member of the foreign affairs and defence committee. […] Will the airstrikes continue?”

MK Haskel explained that that depends on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad because “the more they continue to fire rockets towards Israeli civilians […] we will continue to defend our people.” Husain quickly interrupted her interviewee in order to give her own view, which is apparently that it is the Israeli response to hundreds of rocket attacks against civilians which risks escalating the conflict rather than the attacks themselves.

Husain [interrupts]: “Because the risk from what you’re saying is very great. Islamic Jihad is not the main militant group in Gaza. If these airstrikes continue – and we already know that people have…eh…have died from them – then Hamas will be further drawn in and then you have the prospect of an all-out conflict.”

Haskel: “Well until now we’ve identified 12 dead. We were able to actually identify as well particularly those people so at least seven of them are from the militants of the Islamic Jihad, three of them are from the brigade of Al Quds. All of them are military, all of them are terrorists. All of our attacks are targeted towards specific people who are terrorising the life of Israeli civilians…”

Husain [interrupts]: “What was the crime of the woman who died – the wife of the Islamic Jihad commander?”

Haskel: “Well Baha Abu al-Ata was neutralised because he was a terrorist instigator in Gaza. He conspired and planned many attacks and actually was having Israeli…”

Husain [interrupts]: “Her crimes.”

Haskel: “…civilians. Well unfortunately when there is a ticking bomb and when we know that he’s planning a major attack on Israel and we need to neutralise him, we try to minimise as much as possible…”

Husain [interrupts]: “Although you targeted him in his…although you targeted him in his home which is somewhere that he’s likely to be with his wife.”

Haskel: “I just want to finish. Unfortunately there’s a price for it and we try to minimise it as much as possible any kind of civilian casualty. When there’s one person who is a civilian casualty, with to say that this is your husband; you are participating in the exact same acts. That was the only opportunity that our defence forces had to neutralise him. So when there’s one…”

Making no effort whatsoever to inform listeners of the fact that terrorists often use their families and other civilians as human shields, Husain then proceeded to try to cast doubts on Israel’s intelligence.

Husain [interrupts]: “What was the…what was the immediate threat that he posed? You mentioned there was a ticking bomb so what was the intelligence?”

Haskel: “Well he was in the midst of planning a major attack on Israel.”

Husain: “Right. And you know that for sure, do you? Because it is rare…it is rare for…ehm…for a targeted killing these days to happen in this way.”

Haskel pointed out that Israeli intelligence is not questioned when it relates to attacks on European soil and went on:

Haskel: “But when it’s targeted towards Israelis and not Europeans then you come and you question it. I can tell you for sure; I sit in the Israeli defence committee of the parliament and from the intelligence that we gather there was a major attack planned by this person.”

Mishal Husain closed the interview at that point.

One would of course expect that the BBC would make the most of an interview with an Israeli official during a time of conflict to meet its public purpose remit of enhancing audience understanding of the story. However, as we have often witnessed in the past, one of the recurrent phenomena associated with media coverage of outbreaks of conflict between Israel and terrorists in the Gaza Strip is the proliferation of journalists who suddenly transform into self-appointed ‘experts’ in military strategy and laws of armed combat.

Obviously Mishal Husain’s aggressive yet clueless questioning concerning the PIJ commander’s wife and her efforts to cast doubts on the intelligence behind the operation were not at all intended to provide listeners with a better understanding of the background to the topic but were entirely self-serving.

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Rocket attacks on Israel prompt BBC WS interview with serial Gaza contributor

As we saw in an earlier post, in the lead item in the November 12th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ presenter Paul Henley and Jerusalem based reporter Barbara Plett Usher managed to spend five minutes discussing that morning’s strike on a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander and the hundreds of subsequent missile attacks against Israeli civilians while diligently avoiding the use of the words ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorists’.

Notably, the only reference to the victims of those attacks heard in that item came in the form of two very brief recorded statements from Israelis who were not identified, their locations not disclosed and what actually happened to them and their property left unexplained.

In contrast, ‘Newshour’ producers did find it appropriate to devote the item’s last four minutes of airtime to the views of an inadequately introduced “resident of Gaza”.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Henley [from 05:42 here]: “Najla is a resident of Gaza and she gave me her reaction to the assassination of Baha Abu al-Ata and the exchange of fire that’s followed.”

Once again Henley made no effort to clarify to listeners around the world that while Israeli strikes targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket launchers and infrastructure, the rockets fired by the PIJ and other factions targeted Israeli civilians. 

Najla: “Every few weeks we have some kind of an episode of escalation but this time is quite different. I would say it started with this…the serious assassination of the Islamic Jihad leader which was perceived by people in Gaza as a major event that reminds us in Gaza with some previous wars…ah…bigger significant escalations. So it is serious and people are very concerned over…”

Henley [interrupts]: “Is he a well-known figure in Gaza this man who’s been killed?”

Najla: “He is but usually the names are not very popular because they don’t go public. They’re not on media or anything but usually within the factions they have big position, big status I would say so…”

Henley [interrupts]: “But among citizens there, among people living in Gaza, will it be a big deal that he personally has been killed?”

Najla: “I mean anyone who would be killed by Israel is an issue to…”

Henley [interrupts]: “That’s not what I’m asking though. Is this a particularly significant figure to the general population of Gaza?”

Najla: “Being who he is as part of Islamic Jihad, as a leader, yes. But the name may not be known very much by the general public.”

Henley: “And does the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel have support among people you know?”

Najla: “To put it in a way that this is how Palestinian factions have been partially responding to such violations by Israel on such attacks but you also should remember that the situation in Gaza has been fuelling for the past years without any resolution and…”

Henley [interrupts]: “I suppose what I’m… I suppose what I’m trying to find out is whether there is generally public support in Gaza for firing more rockets into Israel in direct response to this killing.”

Najla: “People do expect that this to happen. Some agree and some disagree. I can’t give you exact figures on how popular exactly this kind of response is.”

At that point Henley abandoned his obscure line of questioning and provided his interviewee with an uninterrupted one minute and forty second platform from which to promote her unchallenged claims.

Henley: “Sure. How worried are you the situation will spiral into more violence on both sides now though?”

Najla: “We are very worried to be honest and we are waiting to see how things develop tonight. It’s been already a heavy day since 5:30 a. m. this morning but it’s been like the past hour or so kind of quiet and everyone is just watching, watching the news and waiting to see what will come out. So we are greatly worried. We’ve been through this before and unfortunately people in Gaza are…have lost hope in resolving the situation because it’s been just failing…we’ve been failed by everyone and we’ve been punished by all sides. And the situation is really dramatically deteriorating within Gaza in terms of the very basic aspects of life. We’re under blockade, we’re under serious restrictions. Two million people are not able to move, not able to work, the increase of unemployment is massive and I think that this doesn’t make news unfortunately. But people’s lives are being really compromised by the day and everyone, even those who consider themselves advantaged, they do suffer from basic rights such as movement, electricity, proper water etcetera. And the economic situation is deteriorating dramatically and people would probably know that unemployment has reached the highest around the world. So the situation has been really boiling and unfortunately people are not hopeful.”

Henley of course did not challenge the debatable claim that the Gaza Strip has the highest unemployment rate in the world (47% according to the latest figures from the World Bank as opposed to 50% in Syria and 48% in Senegal). Neither did he bother to provide any context to Najla’s claims concerning electricity and water or to explain the background to the blockade.

Najla is in fact Najla Shawa who works for Oxfam and was previously an UNRWA employee. Since 2015 she has been repeatedly interviewed by the BBC – including by Henley – more often than not without proper identification and with no information given to BBC audiences concerning her “particular viewpoints”.

And so, just as it did a year ago, while civilians in Israel were under relentless attack from rockets launched by terrorists in the Gaza Strip, the BBC found it appropriate to all but ignore their voices and instead to spend four minutes showcasing an unchallenged ‘voice from Gaza’.

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‘Quite forthcoming with the confrontational approach’: guess what the BBC is describing

As regular readers know, BBC audiences are all too used to reading and hearing whitewashed portrayals of the perpetrators of terrorism against Israelis but listeners to a report aired in the November 12th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ encountered a new level of euphemistic jargon.

Titled “Israel-Gaza violence escalates”, the synopsis on the programme’s webpage tells audiences that:

“Rocket fire is exchanged after Israel’s killing of a senior Islamic Jihad commander.”

That portrayal of events of course does not clarify an important distinction: the fact that while Israel carried out strikes against purely military targets in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian terrorists carried out attacks against Israeli civilians. Neither was that point made clear during the entire nine-minute item.

The webpage is illustrated with an image described as follows:

“Picture: An image taken from CCTV video made available by Israel’s national roads authority showing the moment a rocket, apparently fired from Gaza, struck a road near the city of Ashdod, Israel, 12 November 2019. Credit: EPA / Netivei Israel.”

Although by the time the programme was aired terrorists in the Gaza Strip had fired over 190 rockets and mortars at Israeli cities, towns and villages as far north as Tel Aviv, listeners heard presenter Paul Henley claim in his introduction that “fighting” was taking place in one sole location.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Henley: “Coming up in a moment: fighting erupts again in Gaza after Israel kills a senior militant. That’s our top story.”

Henley introduced the item itself (from 00:45) thus:

Henley: “First, the killing by Israel of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza seems to have led to a significant escalation of violence in the dispute between Israel and militants in the Palestinian territories. Baha Abu al-Ata died along with his wife in a strike on his home. More than 150 rockets were fired from Gaza in retaliation and Israeli war planes have carried out more strikes of their own.”

Once again the BBC created a false sense of equivalence by failing to clarify that while the Israeli strikes targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket launchers and infrastructure, the rockets fired by the PIJ and other factions targeted Israeli civilians. Henley went on:

Henley: “Here are some views from the Israeli side.”

Listeners then heard two people speak very briefly (one with a voiceover translation) but were not told their names, their locations – Sderot and Netivot – or what actually happened. Henley next introduced “the BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher in Jerusalem”.

Henley: “She told me more about the man whose killing had sparked this latest flare-up in violence.”

Plett Usher: “He is a commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and he has been talked about quite a lot by Israeli military officials and in the Israeli press recently because they see him as somebody who’s ready to take risks, who is ready to operate independently and who’s quite forthcoming with the confrontational approach.”

Yes, that really was apparently the best that Barbara Plett Usher could come up with to describe a senior member of a proscribed, violent, radical Islamic terrorist organisation which seeks to destroy the State of Israel.  

With the BBC having completely ignored the PIJ’s November 1st attacks on Israeli civilians, Plett Usher was then able to present an unnecessarily qualified account of the background to the story.

Plett Usher: “So they [Israeli officials] would blame him for many of the rocket attacks that have taken place in recent months and they say that he was planning more attacks imminently and therefore they had to act. They also say that…ehm…although Palestinian Islamic Jihad is backed by Iran, he has taken on that mantle more so than other such leaders and so they did see him as a threat.”

Henley then asked a rather pointless question to which he got an obvious answer.

Henley: “And when the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu says that all this could prove a protracted conflict, what does he mean?”

Plett Usher: “I think he means that they were very aware when they carried out the targeted killing that Islamic Jihad would respond and that it has lots of rockets to do that and so I think he was telling the Israeli public that…to expect rocket attacks certainly over the next couple of days. That seems to have been the calculation of the Israeli Defence Forces. And then they’re hoping that it will not broaden out into a wider escalation. They have said quite clearly they do not want to escalate although they are prepared if that happens. And they have framed this very much as a strike about this man and these circumstances, that he was seen as a threat and they signalled quite strongly also to the main Islamist movement in Gaza, Hamas, which is governing Gaza, that this is a confrontation with Islamic Jihad. They…they seem to be signalling they do not want Hamas to join the conflict and they want to try and keep it focused in this narrow way.”

Henley: “And what has Hamas been saying?”

Plett Usher replied with a romanticised portrayal of Hamas’ agenda.

Plett Usher: “Hamas is in an interesting position…ahm…because it has a different strategy than Islamic Jihad. It is the governing body and it has in recent months and years been working at tacit truce arrangements with Israel in order to alleviate the humanitarian and economic suffering in Gaza. And Islamic Jihad under this commander has been disrupting that; challenging it with these rocket attacks. So what Hamas has said, so far together with Islamic Jihad, is that Israel has crossed red lines and that it will be responsible for the consequences but it’s not clear what action it will take, you know, it must be calculating whether further conflict – a wider war – is going to be something that the Gazans will be wanting at this point – I think almost certainly not – but at the same time it wouldn’t want to look like a collaborator when such a senior militant commander has been killed. So it has not made clear what action it will take.”

As readers have no doubt noticed, BBC World Service radio listeners had by this point not heard the words ‘terrorism’, ‘terror’ or ‘terrorist’ even once and had not been informed that rocket attacks on civilian targets in Israel are an act of terror. They did however hear an inaccurate portrayal of the current status of efforts to form a government in Israel and amplification of speculation.

Henley: “And what effects are likely on Israeli politics as Benjamin Netanyahu comes to the end of the period he’s allowed to form a coalition government?”

Plett Usher: “It is certainly happening at this very politically sensitive time because he twice failed to form a coalition government and now his chief challenger Benny Gantz is trying to do so and as you said his time is coming up. There have been accusations from centre-Left politicians and from Arab politicians that that’s the reason for the timing of this strike; that it was done for political reasons to bolster Mr Netanyahu’s image as Mr Security. He’s constantly said he’s the man Israel needs to keep the country safe and also as a way of dragging his opponents into a unity government saying ‘look, this is a security situation, you need to join a unity government with me in charge’ so that way he can keep his job. Mr Netanyahu has tried very hard to push against that view. He stressed that he took military advice and that the military was even pushing for this targeted killing and also the operation does seem to have a fairly wide backing from different political elements but having said that, it’s certainly not happening in a political vacuum and if it does escalate, if there does…if it does become something much bigger it would be hard to think that wouldn’t affect the political negotiations in some way.”

So as we see, in the first five minutes of this report BBC audiences were given little or no information about the size of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad faction in the Gaza Strip, the size of its arsenal, the source and scale of its funding or its agenda and ideology. They also heard nothing of significance about what was happening to Israeli civilians who had been under attack by terrorist organisations for seventeen hours by the time this programme was broadcast. The relevance of that will be discussed in a future post.  

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BBC News avoids the word terror in report on strike on terrorist

Some four hours after Israel had carried out a targeted strike on a house belonging to a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander in the Gaza Strip in the early morning of November 12th, the BBC News website published a short report headlined “Israel kills Baha Abu al-Ata, top Palestinian militant in Gaza”.

Readers discovered that although the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been on the UK government’s list of proscribed terrorist organisations since 2001, the UK’s national broadcaster predictably preferred to use the unhelpful and euphemistic term “militant group”.

“Israel has killed one of the most senior commanders of a militant group in the Gaza Strip in an air strike.

Baha Abu Al-Ata, a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), was killed along with his wife, when a missile hit their home, the group said.

Israel said Al-Ata was a “ticking bomb” who was planning “imminent terrorist attacks”.

A rocket barrage was fired at southern Israel from Gaza in the wake of the killing, which PIJ has vowed to avenge.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

PIJ, which is backed by Iran, is the second largest militant group in Gaza and has carried out many rocket attacks on Israel.”

Similar wording opened subsequent versions of the article.

Although the information was publicly available by the time the BBC published its report, it did not bother to inform audiences that the PIJ leader “was in the midst of launching a series of attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF troops, including preparations for sniper and kidnapping attacks, killer drone attacks, and preparations for rocket fire throughout Israel”.

BBC audiences of course have never heard of Baha Abu al-Ata was or his terror activities. Following a barrage of rocket attacks by the PIJ on November 1st (which was completely ignored by the BBC), the veteran analyst Avi Issacharoff explained the situation thus:

“The growing trend of escalation by Islamic Jihad is being led by the figure thought to be the head of its military wing in northern Gaza, Baha Abu al-Ata.

Time after time, the Israeli security establishment takes pains to publish or leak al-Ata’s name to various media outlets as the person behind the rocket fire and efforts to launch other attacks, in the hopes that Hamas will rein him in.

Hamas, however, is not doing so.

Al-Ata is a serious troublemaker in Gaza who no one wants to confront. That includes Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar, who fear him and the possibility of being accused of collaboration if they act against him.

Even Ziad al-Nakhala, Islamic Jihad’s leader, hasn’t succeeded in dealing with al-Ata, who is acting from a clear personal and organizational agenda.

Al-Ata holds a particularly extreme stance against Israel and opposes the current ceasefire between it and Gaza-based terror groups, including the agreement to allow money from Qatar into the enclave. Friday’s rocket fire came shortly after Mohammed al-Emadi, Qatar’s special envoy for Gaza, left the Strip after again coming to distribute funds there.

Al-Ata, whose picture has previously been released by the IDF spokesperson’s office, wants an even more extreme and uncompromising stance toward Israel and does not necessarily adhere to Iranian orders, but rather his own whim.

At the organizational level, he is not considered an enthusiastic supporter of Nakhala and has frequently acted against the Islamic Jihad leader’s orders to prove who is in charge.

Furthermore, Al-Ata understands that in order to boost Islamic Jihad’s standing in Gaza, he needs to differentiate it from Hamas and the Gaza-ruling terror group’s agenda. As Hamas leads a policy of seeking quiet vis-a-vis Israel and improvement in Gaza’s economic situation, al-Ata is trying to brand himself and his organization as the true “resistance” in the Strip.”

There is of course no room in the BBC’s typical one-dimensional portrayal of the Gaza Strip for such nuanced analysis and together with the corporation’s serial under-reporting of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, that means that audiences once again lack the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of Israel’s actions.

Subsequent versions of this BBC report will be discussed as necessary.

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Weekend long read

1) The ITIC looks at the Palestinian Authority policy of rebuilding the houses of terrorists demolished by Israel.

“On the night of October 24, 2019, the Israeli security forces demolished a building under construction in the al-Am’ari refugee camp near Ramallah. The house belonged to the family of Palestinian terrorist Islam Abu Hamid, who killed an IDF soldier in May 2018. Following the destruction Palestinians rioted and clashed with the Israeli security forces. Senior Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah figures rushed to announce that the PA would rebuild the house demolished by Israel. The rebuilding of terrorists’ houses demolished by Israel is a pattern that repeats itself, part of the PA’s consistent policy of providing benefits to terrorists and their families. The PA policy is also a way to challenge the deterrent message Israel tries to convey by demolishing the houses.”

2) Also at the ITIC: analysis of the appointment of a new ISIS leader.

“Beginning on November 2, 2019, in the wake of Al-Baghdadi’s death and the new spokesman’s call to pledge allegiance to ISIS’s new leader, pledges of allegiance from the various provinces and individual operatives and supporters began to appear. It is to be expected that additional pledges of allegiance will be published in the near future.

The first province to issue a pledge of allegiance was the Sinai Province. Operatives of the province posted two photos on Telegram documenting a group of operatives pledging allegiance to ISIS’s new leader (November 2, 2019). A few hours later, a photo was posted documenting another pledge of allegiance from the Bangladesh Province. On November 4, 2019, a photo was published documenting operatives of the Somalia Province pledging allegiance to the new leader.”

3) At the JNS Yaakov Lappin discusses the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.

“PIJ wishes to position itself as the “authentic” jihadist organization in the Strip at the expense of Hamas, which unlike PIJ has to balance out its considerations as a government with its commitment to armed conflict and terrorism. […]

It is more than willing to use its rocket arsenal, which is larger than that of Hamas, to upset the security situation. Iranian funding and rocket-production know-how has helped make PIJ a significant terror army, with some 15,000 armed operates (compared to Hamas’s 25,000-strong military wing).”

4) Emily B. Landau and Shimon Stein of the INSS analyse “Turkey’s Nuclear Motivation”.

“Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently complained about the unfair situation whereby some countries are free to possess nuclear tipped missiles, while others are not – a situation he cannot accept. What might be motivating Erdogan not only to raise the nuclear issue at this time, but for the first time to threaten to develop his own capability? If Erdogan decides to go down the nuclear path, this decision will have implications for Turkey’s relations with NATO/EU, the nuclear nonproliferation regime, and the Middle East.”

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC analyses last weekend’s attempted infiltration from the Gaza Strip, which the BBC chose to ignore.

“On August 17, 2019, IDF observation posts identified five suspects approaching the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. At least one of them was armed. IDF forces were rushed to the site. An IDF tank and helicopter shot at the suspects before they could cross the security fence (IDF spokesman, August 17, 2019). The attempted penetration came two days after four rockets were launched at Israel in two separate incidents (August 16 and 17, 2019). The Palestinian ministry of health reported that IDF forces had killed three Palestinians and critically wounded another. The five belonged variously to Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Fatah. Some of them had participated in the return marches and were Night Harassment Unit operatives in the northern Gaza Strip. Senior figures in Hamas and the other terrorist organizations publicly praised the operatives who were killed and blamed Israel for their deaths. Senior Hamas figure Isma’il Haniyeh paid visits, well covered by the media, to the families of the dead operatives.”

2) Writing at the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Spyer takes a look at recent moves by the UAE.

“In Yemen on July 8, the Emiratis announced the drawing down of their forces from the country. Abu Dhabi’s soldiers have played the key military role on the ground against the Houthis since 2015.

Having departed the Saudi-led coalition against the Iran-backed Ansar Allah or Houthi insurgency, the Emiratis subsequently threw their weight behind their local allies in Yemen. […]

The UAE has notably refrained from directly accusing Tehran of carrying out the attacks on four tankers in UAE territorial waters which took place in May. This despite there being no other serious candidate for responsibility. And in late July, a UAE delegation travelled to Tehran and, with exquisite irony, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Iranians to “enhance maritime border security cooperation.” “

3) At the FDD Aykan Erdemir discusses recent events in Turkey.

“The Turkish government on Monday removed from office three mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) less than six months into their five-year terms. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who suffered an embarrassing defeat in last March’s local elections, continues to disregard the will of Turkey’s electorate by appointing trustees to replace opposition mayors.

Erdogan first introduced the practice of removing elected mayors from office in September 2016, taking advantage of the state of emergency declared shortly after Turkey’s abortive coup. Together with his ultranationalist allies, the Turkish leader first targeted pro-Kurdish officials, replacing 90 of the 102 HDP mayors with trustees. Shortly after the March 2019 elections, which provided many HDP mayors with a renewed mandate to assume office, Turkey’s High Election Board overturned the election of seven HDP mayors, handing their offices to losing candidates from Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).”

4) At the Times of Israel Abraham Rabinovich recalls “How an Australian sheepshearer’s al-Aqsa arson nearly torched Middle East peace”.

“One of the first stories I was assigned as a young journalist in Israel in 1969 was the trial of an Australian sheepshearer who set fire to the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, an act that threatened to unhinge the Middle East. It remains for me the most vivid story I covered during my 25 years with The Jerusalem Post, a period that included several wars.

August 23 marks the 50th anniversary of the event. The Muslim world assumed that Israel was responsible for the arson and Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal ordered his armed forces to prepare for a holy war. The Arab League met in emergency session, and from distant India came reports of rioting in Muslim areas, with many casualties.”

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At Mosaic magazine Professor Eugene Kontorovich explains “The Many Incoherences and Hypocrisies of International Law on Jerusalem”.

“Under the uti possidetis principle, then, Israel’s borders at the moment of independence are quite clear: the borders of Mandatory Palestine. Those borders include all of Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria as well. The UN, in its thousands of resolutions to the contrary, flagrantly ignores that principle.

This conclusion is not affected by the UN General Assembly’s partition proposal, adopted as Resolution 181 in November 1947, that provided for the formation in Palestine of two states, Jewish and Arab, with the city of Jerusalem designated a separate internationally-administered entity (the corpus separatum). That is not only because the UN proposal was a non-binding recommendation, but because, having been rejected by the Arabs, it was never implemented and did not in fact result in a partition of the Mandate. Uti possidetis goes by the prior administrative borders as they were, not as they might at various times have been imagined to be.”

2) MEMRI documents the broader background to a speech from a senior Hamas figure which was recently ignored by the BBC: “Hamas Official Fathi Hamad’s Speech Was No Exception”.

“After a July 12, 2019 speech by Hamas political bureau member Fathi Hammad urging Palestinians to kill Jews all over the world sparked outrage, Hamas issued a clarification stating that his statements did not reflect the movement’s official positions and that Hamas’s struggle is against the occupation, not against Jews around the world or the Jewish faith.

However, MEMRI publications from the past two years show that statements by Hamas members and officials, and content published by Hamas’s official media, have been rife with antisemitism. […]

It should be mentioned that all of these statements were made after Hamas published its May 1, 2017 policy document aimed at presenting the movement as pragmatic, democratic, and tolerant. This document was also aimed at distancing the movement from the antisemitic statements that appear in its charter (although it does not supersede the charter), by stating that Hamas does not fight the Jews as such, but only the Zionist occupation.”

3) The ITIC takes a look at a topic serially under reported by the BBC – “Summer Camps in the Gaza Strip”.

“In the past UNRWA organized and funded some of the summer activities for the children in the Gaza Strip. However, in recent years UNRWA suspended its activities because of financial problems. The vacuum was filled by Hamas and the PIJ, which increased their summer camp activities accordingly. In the past Hamas summer camps were organized by the ministries of education and the interior. However, in recent years, with the formal addition of military training to the high school curriculum (“al-Futuwwa”), organizing the summer camps was turned over to the military wings of Hamas and the PIJ (to continue al-Futuwwa training). Apparently the transition had a direct influence on the summer camps’ programs and more emphasis is currently placed on indoctrination and paramilitary training. […]

Hamas’ summer camps are expected to open on July 20, 2019. The camps, called Pioneers of Liberation, are supervised by Hamas’ military wing, and their theme is “Going to Jerusalem”.”

4) Jonathan Spyer analyses the Iraqi prime minister’s announcement of the integration of Shia militias into the Iraqi security forces. 

“The Shia militias are the main instrument of Iranian policy on Iraqi soil.  Not all groups involved in the 150,000 strong PMU are Iran-linked, but the largest and most consequential groupings are.  These include the Badr organization, led by Hadi al-Ameri,  Ktaeb Hizballah, headed by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Asaib ahl-al Haq, and Hizballah al-Nujaba.

All the above mentioned groupings are franchises of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). All were established by and are controlled by Iran, answering directly to the IRGC’s Qods Force and its leader, General Qassem Soleimani. […]

The militias are powerful players – politically, militarily and economically.  Prime Minister Adel Abd al Mehdi, meanwhile, is a weak figure with no real power base of its own.  Iraq is not a country ruled by law.  The prime minister as a result simply possesses no coercive mechanism for imposing his will on the Shia militias.  He can order their dissolution if he so wishes.  The result will be the further enmeshing and fusing of the militias with the official bodies of the state – without the ceding by the latter of their own vital chain of command.  This chain of command leads to Qassem Soleimani, and thence to the office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.”

 

BBC’s Bateman promotes false equivalence with Gaza report

The May 11th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ was titled “Airstrikes and Sirens”. As listeners would soon learn, the word ‘airstrikes’ refers to the Gaza Strip and the word ‘sirens’ (rather than ‘rocket attacks’) refers to Israel. A photograph depicting damage at an unnamed site in the Gaza Strip was used to illustrate the programme’s web page.

The synopsis to the programme’s lead report by Tom Bateman reads as follows:  

“In Israel and Gaza, Tom Bateman hears how rocket and air strikes are ruining lives. With no end to the conflict in sight, what has the impact of the latest violence been?”

Presenter Kate Adie introduced the item (from 00:31 here) using the standard BBC euphemism for terrorists.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Adie: “But first, a ceasefire between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip has been holding, after one of the worst flare-ups in recent years. Two days of fighting erupted after a Palestinian sniper shot and wounded two Israeli soldiers at the perimeter fence. In the intense military exchanges that followed, at least 25 Palestinians and four Israelis were killed. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman has been hearing from some of those caught up in it.”

Four days before this programme was aired the ITIC had published a report showing that the majority of the Palestinians killed were terrorist operatives or members of terrorist organisations. The BBC chose to ignore that information, instead creating a false sense of equivalence between the Israelis killed in attacks targeting civilians and the Palestinian terror operatives killed in attacks on terror related targets.

Bateman opened his report with an emotive description of events at one site in the north of the Gaza Strip.

Bateman: “When Rafat Nasser [phonetic] ran into his apartment block he feared the worst. Masonry dust rained down in the darkness. The building, in a packed neighbourhood of the northern Gaza Strip, had partially collapsed. In the wreckage he looked hard and shouted out. There, among the rubble calling back, were his two teenage daughters Amira and Yaara [phonetic]. They were covered in debris, grey and unrecognisable, but they were alive. Rafat told me the block had just been targeted by an Israeli war plane. Its missiles struck the fifth floor, he said, completely destroying two apartments. Outside, Anas Abu Jidiyan [phonetic] raced to the scene. His uncle and aunt and their eleven-year-old son lived on the fifth floor. Anas used his bare hands to search through the rubble. He found the boy’s body lying in the street. He said it wasn’t until the morning after that other people found the remains of the child’s parents. ‘It is hard to describe’ says Anas – and he speaks more slowly – ‘that’s why we pray that no-one else will have to experience what we are going through’.”

While Bateman refrained from providing the name of the building and its exact location, we can obviously conclude that he is referring to a strike in northern Gaza in which a couple and their 11-year-old son were killed. The ITIC’s report includes casualties answering that description.

Photo credit: ITIC

“Talal Atiya Muhammad Abu al-Jadyan, 46, killed in an attack on the Sheikh Zaeid Towers in the northern Gaza Strip (al-Quds, May 6, 2019). The PFLP issued a mourning notice for him, indicating he was member of the organization (PFLP website, May 6, 2019). […]

Abd al-Rahman Talal Atiya Abu al-Jadyan, 12, killed in an attack in the northern Gaza Strip (Ashraf al-Qidra’s Facebook page, May 5, 2019). Son of Talal Atiya Muhammad Abu al Jadyan, PFLP member, who was also killed.

Raghda Muhammad Mahmoud Abu al-Jadyan, 40 (Ashraf al-Qidra’s Facebook page, May 6, 2019). Wife of Talal Atiya Muhammad Abu al-Jadyan, PFLP member.”

In other words the man described by Bateman merely as the “uncle” of one of his interviewees was in fact a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group.

Bateman however went on to tick the ‘impartiality’ box using the BBC’s classic ‘Israel says’ qualification and dutifully avoiding the word terrorist.

Bateman: “Israel said it targeted only legitimate military sites in Gaza. There were more than 300 strikes over the two days. Buildings were levelled, usually after being emptied. Where targets were residential blocks the army said this was because they were being used for militant activity. The escalation was sparked when two Israeli soldiers were shot and wounded, apparently by a gunman from Islamic Jihad. The militant group has been growing more audacious in Gaza, with a new leader seeking perhaps to carve out an even more hard-line image against that of the dominant force there, Hamas. At the funerals of the two militants killed by Israel in response there was a wave of anger and a barrage of rockets.”

Listeners were then given a misleading time frame for the rocket attacks by Palestinian terrorists which have been a regular occurrence for almost two decades, with Bateman claiming that the latest barrage was “fired at Israel” rather than at civilians.

Bateman: “The scream of the air-raid sirens in southern Israeli towns has become frequent in the last year. In the city of Ashdod I met Ephraim Cohen who lives in a six-storey block in a busy ultra-orthodox Jewish neighbourhood. ‘Look’ he said, showing me the blown-out window in his children’s room ‘how can kids grow up like this?’. Glass cracked underfoot as we walked through his ruined flat. Some 700 rockets were fired at Israel over the two days. Ashdod is about 20 miles north of the Gaza Strip. Ephraim described hurrying his children into the shelter. They sat inside reciting psalms as the sirens wailed. Six alarms went off and they sang more loudly each time. After the final one, he said, they chanted at the highest pitch and then there was a huge blast. A neighbour – 21-year-old Pinchas Pashwazman – had tried to run from the building to shelter. He was hit by shrapnel and killed. ‘Forget the politicians’ urged Ephraim ‘they are full of slogans’. ‘We just want results’ he said, ‘an end to this’.”

Failing to mention that in addition to the homes of civilians the terrorists also struck a hospital treating many of those injured in the attacks, educational facilities and a synagogue, Bateman returned to his main topic – Gaza – but avoided telling listeners why the general population there has “no shelters”.

Bateman: “In Gaza you can almost become numb to the cycle of destruction. The Israeli air strikes when they get close send shockwaves through surrounding buildings and create a feeling of total vulnerability. The drones buzz incessantly in the sky, searching out targets. There are no air-raid sirens or shelters for ordinary residents of Gaza; only the militants, it is said, can escape to their underground bunkers.”

Bateman then returned to his usual practice of describing the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting as “protests”. He failed to clarify that what he described as “a series of…flare-ups” have in fact been exclusively the result of the decision by Gaza Strip based terrorists to attack Israeli civilians with military grade projectiles.

Bateman: “I have been in and out of the Strip over the past year as one story of Palestinian protests at the fence evolved into another; a series of ever more intense military flare-ups. While Israel and Hamas exchanged blows, they have also exchanged demands. Israel wants quiet. Hamas wants the blockade eased. These are old enemies: they don’t talk. So the head of Egyptian intelligence tries to broker calm one day and cash from Qatar via Israel to help relieve Gaza’s appalling poverty the next. The situation feels as desperate as it is lethal and there are few realistic political solutions on the horizon. Some say Islamic Jihad calculated that Israel wouldn’t go to war in the days leading up to the Eurovision Song Contest being held in Tel Aviv. So the moment was chosen to extract maximum concessions.”

Failing to mention the fact that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is backed by Iran and choosing to ignore statements and threats made by its leader days before his report was broadcast, Bateman went on to tell listeners of ‘ominous’ warnings from Israel’s prime minister.

Bateman: “The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned ominously that Israel’s campaign is not over. Few can feel optimistic. Rafat Nasser, struggling to find work, told me he had taken out a mortgage to buy his apartment in Gaza. Now he no longer has a home but he still has the loan to repay. In Ashdod I asked Ephraim Cohen, in his wrecked apartment, whether the ceasefire would hold. ‘It will hold’ he told me. ‘It will hold when the messiah comes’.”

Tom Bateman’s main messaging in this report was obviously a false sense of equivalence between events in Israel and events in the Gaza Strip. That was achieved by the use of euphemisms such as “flare-ups” and avoiding the fact that all the recent rounds of conflict have been sparked by rocket attacks by terror groups in the Gaza Strip. In addition Bateman failed to adequately clarify to listeners that while Israel targets terror related sites in its response to rocket attacks, the Palestinian terrorists’ rocket attacks are aimed at civilian targets. Moreover, he failed to inform BBC audiences that while all four Israeli victims of the latest round of conflict were civilians, some 74% of those killed in the Gaza Strip were members of terror factions.

 

 

BBC WS radio’s ‘context’: falsehoods about counter terrorism measures

BBC coverage of last week’s escalation of violence during which terror groups in the Gaza Strip fired 690 rockets at civilian communities in Israel included an item aired in the May 5th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’, hosted by James Menendez.

The item (from 00:10 here) commenced with analysis from Alan Johnston who referred to a “deal” brokered by the Egyptians to bring an end to the previous exacerbation in March which he described as including:

“…easing of the blockade which Israel imposes on Gaza – the blockade that cripples economic and many other aspects of life in Gaza…”

Making no effort to inform listeners why that blockade was put in place or how Palestinian Authority actions and Hamas’ prioritisation of terrorism over civilian well-being have contributed to the current state of affairs in the Gaza Strip, Johnston went on to amplify the narrative promoted by Gaza Strip based terror groups.

“Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza are unhappy with the Israelis for not implementing that…their side of the deal. That’s the Palestinian Gazan view of the situation.”

Johnston’s contribution ended there, with listeners hearing nothing at all about the Israeli “view of the situation” – including the rocket fire days earlier (unreported by the BBC) which brought about a reduction of the fishing zone or the fact that Israel disputes the claims made by Gaza Strip terror groups concerning the delay of transfer of cash from Qatar.

With that one-sided framing in place, Menendez introduced another ‘analyst’ at 04:08.

Menendez: “Well Tareq Baconi is an analyst with the non-profit International Crisis Group. He’s based in Ramallah in the West Bank. He’s also the author of ‘Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance’. Why does he think the violence has flared up again now?”

Despite the BBC having editorial guidelines which stipulate that audiences should be informed of the “particular viewpoint” of contributors, listeners were told nothing of the International Crisis Group’s (ICG) record, agenda and fundingincluding its receipt of donations from Qatar which are obviously relevant to the story, given that country’s history of support for Hamas.

Neither were listeners informed that Tareq Baconi – formerly a Policy Fellow with Al Shabaka – has repeatedly made his own position on Hamas clear, including in his book:

“Hamas rules Gaza and the lives of the two million Palestinians who live there. Demonized in media and policy debates, various accusations and critical assumptions have been used to justify extreme military action against Hamas. The reality of Hamas is, of course, far more complex. Neither a democratic political party nor a terrorist group, Hamas is a multifaceted liberation organization, one rooted in the nationalist claims of the Palestinian people.” [emphasis added]

Obviously that information would have been critical in helping audiences reach informed opinions about the one-sided talking points they were about to hear but rather than providing it, the BBC chose to present Baconi’s contribution as impartial analysis. Like Johnston, Baconi presented just one explanation for the “quite dire” situation in the Gaza Strip, erasing Hamas terrorism and inter-factional Palestinian disputes from the picture.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Baconi: “I think the cause is that there are fundamental demands that the Palestinians in Gaza are requesting that Israel abide by – namely the humanitarian suffering and the economic situation in Gaza – and by virtue of the blockade the situation in Gaza continues to be quite dire. So often these escalations are ways for the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip to pressure Israel into abiding by its side of ceasefire agreements. We can pinpoint the specific reason for this latest escalation. There are several things that are happening. The Eurovision contest is happening next week and we’re coming up to milestones and anniversaries that are quite full of emotion for Palestinians: Nakba of course on May 15 which is the same day that Israel celebrates its Independence Day. And domestically within Israel Netanyahu is currently in discussions to form a new coalition government.”

Menendez: “I mean is there any reason to think from the Palestinian point of view that doing this will bring that relief that they want, that at the moment they have any greater leverage – because it doesn’t look like it, does it?”

Listeners heard nothing about the context to the counter-terrorism measure which is the blockade and they were wrongly led to believe both that Israel has made agreements with “the factions in Gaza” and that the terms of understandings in fact brokered by third parties “never translates into action”.

Baconi: “Well the issue that we need to remember here is that Israel has historically – certainly over the course of the last decade since the blockade was first imposed on the Gaza Strip but definitely over the course of the past year or so – it has shown that it only really responds to force. It has reinforced that message time and again. It’s only when Hamas and other factions fire rockets at Israel that Israel countenances taking any measures that might relieve the suffering in the Gaza Strip. Even though every kind of ceasefire agreement between Israel and the factions in Gaza have been predicated on the simple understanding that there will be calm in Israel’s southern communities if the situation in the Gaza Strip changes, that never translates into action so while Hamas and other factions do restrain any kind of activity from the Gaza Strip, Israel never responds by meeting its obligations under a ceasefire. So really whether or not Hamas has more of a chance now is unclear but that’s sort of beside the point because it’s unclear what other measures Hamas has. If the Gaza Strip isn’t a source of rocket fire, it’s forgotten from Israel’s perspective and the collective punishment of two million Palestinians sort of becomes acceptable or forgotten.”

Menendez had nothing to say about Baconi’s promotion of the “collective punishment” myth but went on to describe terror groups that launch military-grade rockets at civilians as “militants”.

Menendez: “Is there a danger then, if the Palestinian militants feel that they’ve got nothing to lose at this stage, that we could be on the brink of another big conflagration as we saw, what, in 2014?”

Baconi: “Absolutely. I think that’s always a danger. I think neither Hamas nor Israel wants an escalation which is what’s so ironic about this dynamic. The dynamic keeps repeating itself every few months but neither party necessarily wants an escalation. Hamas certainly; it rightly believes that any escalation will be hugely destructive for the Gaza Strip in terms of the loss of life – certainly civilian life – but also in terms of infrastructure and the destruction that we’ve seen Israel unleash over the Gaza Strip repeatedly in the past. The Gaza Strip is already according to the UN close to being uninhabitable. Another military assault by Israel would be devastating. And in return, Israel certainly doesn’t want an escalation because Netanyahu is quite…in a quite sensitive position in his own coalition discussions. However, having said that, even though no party wants an escalation, the dynamic is such that neither party is willing to pay the political will to get out of this dynamic and here I shouldn’t actually equate both parties. The political will here rests with Israel as the stronger party and the enforcer of the blockade. The only thing that can change fundamentally this dynamic is for the blockade to be lifted and for the Gaza Strip to be dealt with as a political reality, not as a humanitarian reality.”

Menendez: “But don’t the rocket attacks just play into Israel’s hands in the sense it proves to the Israeli government that the blockade has to continue because it needs to put the squeeze on people who are firing rockets at their civilian centres?”

Baconi: “This is obviously not to justify the use of rockets: rockets in the form that Hamas is using them is a war crime because they are indiscriminate and they fall on civilians and combatants in an indiscriminate manner. But nonetheless, one needs to understand the drivers of these forms of activities and seeing the rocket fire as a response to the blockade is fundamental here. The blockade is itself an act of violence that is indiscriminately treating two million Palestinians – the vast majority of whom are youth and refugees – under collective punishment. So the idea that Israel has imposed the blockade because of the rockets is false, actually. The blockade has been imposed on the Gaza Strip in many ways since before Hamas was even created. The fundamental issue in Gaza is the fact that it’s [a] Palestinian political issue that Israel doesn’t need to or doesn’t want to address.”

Menendez made no effort whatsoever to challenge Baconi’s inversion of the facts and whitewashing of terrorism. Listeners were not told that the Gaza Strip was designated ‘hostile territory’ by Israel over two years after Israel’s disengagement from the territory and following over 2,000 rocket attacks by Gaza Strip based terrorists in which 14 Israelis were killed.

The item was closed by Menendez at that point but listeners to the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day heard a slightly different version of the same interview with Baconi which was presented by Menendez (from 00:11 here) as “the context for this sudden escalation of fighting”.

In other words, BBC World Service radio’s idea of “context” that would aid audiences to understand the story was falsehoods concerning the counter-terrorism blockade from a known Hamas apologist representing an inadequately introduced political NGO.

Related Articles:

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