Third time unlucky for BBC audiences trying to understand UNESCO charades

The BBC News website’s reporting on the latest ignominious resolution concerning Jerusalem that was adopted by UNESCO on October 26th was to be found tagged onto the end of a report concerning an archeological discovery titled “Jerusalem reference found on ancient wine ledger“. Readers were told that:jerusalem-papyrus

“The discovery was announced on Wednesday shortly after the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco) adopted a second resolution in a week that Israel said denied Judaism’s ties to Jerusalem.

The resolution, according to copies seen by news agencies, mentions only the Islamic name for a key holy site in the city known to Jews as the Temple Mount and al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) to Muslims.” [emphasis added]

According to the Times of Israel:

“A draft of the resolution obtained by The Times of Israel on Sunday once again referred to the Temple Mount compound solely by its Muslim names, “Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif,” and defined it only as “a Muslim holy site of worship.”

As the site of the biblical temples, the mount is the holiest place in Judaism. Unlike last week’s resolution, the draft likely to be adopted Wednesday will not mention the importance of Jerusalem’s Old City for “the three monotheistic religions.””

The BBC, however, was apparently incapable of informing audiences in its own words that such language does indeed deny the ties of Judaism (and Christianity) to Jerusalem, preferring instead to employ its jaded – and redundant – “Israel says” formula. The article closed:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised the “absurdity” of Wednesday’s decision and said he would recall his country’s ambassador to Unesco for consultations on how to proceed.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said the resolution was aimed “at reaffirming the importance of Jerusalem for the three monotheistic religions”.”

While amplifying that particular part of the PLO-NAD issued statement, the BBC failed to balance it by informing readers that officials from both Fatah and Hamas lauded the previous UNESCO resolution’s denial of Jewish history.  

“A spokesman for the Gaza-based terror group Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement that his group “welcomes” the resolution’s wording to the effect that “al-Aqsa is of purely Islamic heritage.” He said the decision marks a “victory for the Palestinian people.”

Abu Zuhri added that the UNSECO text “demolished the Israeli fiction” concerning the Temple Mount, the holy area Jews consider to be their most sacred place as the site of the two biblical temples.”

Readers were also not told of the threats issued by the Palestinian and Jordanian delegations to members of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee ahead of the vote.

As was the case in the BBC News website’s previous two reports concerning UNESCO (see ‘related articles’ below), audiences learned nothing of prior UNESCO motions and resolutions which have similarly erased Jewish ties to historic sites or of the all-important context of this latest UNESCO resolution in the long-standing Palestinian campaign to erase Jewish heritage and history as part of the tactical delegitimisation of Israel. 

With this being the third report concerning Palestinian and Arab abuse of the UNESCO forum for political ends that the BBC News website has produced in twelve days, it is by now very obvious that the corporation has no intention whatsoever of providing its funding public with the information which would enhance their understanding of this particular “international issue” – as its remit obliges.

Related Articles:

Another deficient BBC News report on UNESCO denial of Jewish heritage

BBC report on UNESCO row marred by lack of context and previous omission

BBC R4 programme on UNESCO omits negation of Jewish heritage

 

 

 

 

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BBC’s Bowen does maintenance on his framing of a Middle East story

In addition to the audio report produced by Jeremy Bowen on his recent visit to Jerusalem, a written report appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 4th under the headline “Israel-Palestinian tensions return to boiling point“.Bowen art 4 5

The surge in terror attacks which began last September has of course subsided somewhat in recent months but Jeremy Bowen has not travelled all the way to Jerusalem to tell his audiences that.

“In the week or so I have been back in Jerusalem, a few people have asked me what it is I am here to cover. I thought it should be obvious.

The violence. Repeated attacks on Israelis by Palestinians, and the response by Israeli security forces.

But I have had quite a few bemused shrugs from journalist colleagues. Why now, when it has been going on since last October?

I was in Jerusalem last autumn reporting on it. What has changed? The longer something goes on the more it tends to slip down the news agenda.”

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC’s coverage of that “news agenda” during the first six months of the wave of terror hovered at around five and a half percent.

Neither has Bowen flown all the way to Jerusalem to enhance his audiences’ knowledge on the issue of Palestinian terrorism – as demonstrated by the fact that he manages to describe last month’s bus bombing in the Israeli capital without using the word ‘terror’ even once.

“Eden Dadon, a 15-year-old Israeli girl, is in hospital in Jerusalem with 45% burns that she suffered when a Palestinian set off a bomb on a bus on 18 April.

When I met her mother, Rachel, at the hospital, Eden had been on a ventilator in an induced coma for more than a month [sic]. […]

A bomb on a bus revived horrible memories for Israelis of the attacks that killed hundreds of people during the second intifada (Palestinian uprising) in the years after 2000.

Rachel, who was scared before the bus she and her daughter boarded blew up, is a single mother. She has had to stop working as a carer for old people so she can spend time with her daughter.”

What Bowen has come to do is to continue his promotion of a sense of equivalence between the victims of terror attacks and their perpetrators – and so readers find an interview with the bus bombing terrorist’s mother which is almost as long as the one with the mother and sister of the Israeli victim suffering from severe burns. As has so often been the case in the past, Bowen refrains from mentioning Hamas’ designation as a terrorist organization.

“Abdul’s attack, though, was claimed by Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement.”

He promotes the euphemism ‘resistance’ and provides readers with ‘explanations’ for the attempted murder of a bus load of civilians.

“Not just Abed [Abdul], I think all the people here now prefer the resistance. Because for them peace is a hopeless case.”

“He was angry for everything that happened in Palestine. He was watching what happened everyday. Killings, arrests, destroying homes, everything. Of course he was angry.”

Bowen later adds more amplification of Palestinian propaganda in his own words:

“Palestinians hate the occupation and loathe what they say is Israel’s trigger-happy response to threats, often complaining that they are scared to reach into their pockets or bags near Israelis soldiers and police officers in case they get shot dead.”

Bowen has also travelled all the way to Jerusalem to continue what he and his colleagues have been doing for the last seven months: avoiding informing their audiences in their own words about the incitement coming from official Palestinian sources which fueled the wave of terror.

“The Israeli prime minister’s spokesman told me that “teaching Palestinian children to hate is one of the primary causes of the terror attacks against Israeli civilians today… their impressionable minds should not be poisoned with hatred by the Palestinian Authority.””

Moreover, Bowen uses the ‘smoke and mirrors’ trick of creating an irrelevant comparison – and false equivalence – between incitement and glorification of terrorism sanctioned and organized by the Palestinian Authority and its main party Fatah with the behaviour of a specific group of Israeli football hooligans.  

“Hate-filled Palestinian rhetoric against Israel is not hard to find. It cuts the other way too.

Fans of one of Jerusalem’s professional football clubs, which has roots in a right-wing Zionist youth movement, are notorious for chanting “Death to Arabs” during games.”

But what Bowen has primarily come to do in Jerusalem is some maintenance on his long-standing project of deflecting attention away from Palestinian incitement (in accordance with PLO guidance) and encouraging audiences to adopt the view that the acts of terror perpetrated by Palestinians should be attributed to one cause alone.  

“But hundreds of conversations with Palestinians over many years here have convinced me that the biggest factor that shapes their attitudes to Israel is not the incitement to hate but the occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, that started after Israel’s victory in the 1967 Middle East war.

When Palestinians who agitate against Israel find an audience, it is because of the way that the occupation, which is inherently violent, has overshadowed and controlled Palestinian lives for almost 50 years.”

As ever, Bowen fails to provide audiences with the relevant context concerning the background to the Six Day War and conscientiously avoids giving them any information concerning the legal status of Judea and Samaria before they were belligerently occupied by Jordan in 1948. For Bowen – and, he hopes, his audiences – all that is relevant is ‘the Israeli occupation’ because that is what enables his ensuing framing of the conflict.

“The issues here do not change much. Two peoples have been fighting for generations about one piece of land. That is still the core of the conflict.”

For over seven months the BBC – with Jeremy Bowen at the helm of its Middle East reporting – has avoided carrying out any serious reporting on the issue of official Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism. When Bowen’s post was created over a decade ago it was described as being intended “to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent.”

BBC audiences are not getting that analysis because Bowen’s main priority is not audience comprehension but the promotion of specific framing of the story which serves a politically driven agenda.

Related Articles:

BBC’s ME Editor gives unchallenged amplification to Palestinian defamation

BBC News reports Jerusalem bus bomb without using the word terror

BBC News changes headline on Hamas bus bomber claim

BBC’s ME editor fails to deliver in ‘Newsnight’ item on Jerusalem terror attacks

Explaining away terror BBC Bowen style – part one

Explaining away terror BBC Bowen style – part two

 

BBC’s Yolande Knell reports from Gush Etzion – part two

In part one of this post we discussed some of the issues arising from Yolande Knell’s filmed and audio reports titled “Death at the Junction” which were broadcast on BBC World News television and on BBC Radio 4 on April 23rd.Knell Our World TV

An additional feature of both reports is Knell’s employment of PLO terminology and messaging. In the audio report she tells listeners:

“Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and the expansion of settlements are often cited as reasons for Palestinian anger but [interviewee] Daniel believes incitement is driving the upsurge in attacks.”

Cited by whom? That Knell does not reveal but a guidance document for members of the media which was issued by the PLO in November 2015 tells foreign reporters that “The main issue is the Israeli Occupation” and in relation to the current wave of terrorism, journalists are informed that:

“The Israeli government attempts to shift the focus away from their colonization enterprise and illegal occupation, which is the root cause of the continuous uprisings of the Palestinian people who have for decades endured an Apartheid regime. Though Israeli spokespeople have claimed that the main issues are Al-Aqsa and “Palestinian incitement”, the fact of the matter is that Israel continues to systematically deny Palestinian rights.”

Knell later goes on to say:

“The current escalation was partly triggered by Palestinian fury over restricted access to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. The site is holy to Muslims and Jews, who call it Temple Mount.” [emphasis added]

In the filmed report viewers are told that:

“The Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City is the third holiest place in Islam. Jews call it Temple Mount and it’s also their holiest site. It lies at the heart of the conflict. Last year, with hopes of a political solution further away than ever, the latest round of violence began right here. Clashes broke out between Israeli police and Palestinians. As Jews visited during religious holidays, fears grew that Israel had plans to change a rule that forbids non-Muslims from praying at the site.”

In November 2014 the PLO put out a ‘media advisory’ document instructing foreign journalists to use the term “Al Aqsa Mosque compound” instead of what was described as the “inaccurate term” Temple Mount. That directive is of course part and parcel of the PLO’s habitual negation of Jewish history and the BBC – which used to use the term ‘Haram al Sharif’ – has since frequently been found complying with that attempt to promote the inaccurate notion that the whole of Temple Mount “forms the Mosque” and amplifying baseless Palestinian claims of alleged Israeli intentions to change the status quo at the site.

Knell’s filmed report also includes extensive promotion of falsehoods which go completely unchallenged. During her interview with the father of a terrorist who was shot and killed whilst in the process of carrying out a stabbing attack at Gush Etzion junction on October 27th 2015, Knell tells viewers:

“Nadi [the terrorist’s father] himself is a former militant who spent 10 years in an Israeli jail but he says his son wasn’t politically motivated in the way that he was. He was impulsive, inspired by social media.”

Knell fails to tell audiences that Izz al-Din Abu Shakhadam’s accomplice had served a 16-month prison term in Israel for Hamas activities and that Hamas issued death notices for them both.

Viewers then see the following unqualified statements from the father in the sub-titles on screen:

“Izz al-Din was always keeping up with events on Facebook. He used to see the raids of the settlers on Al Aqsa, to see the Occupation army executing our girls and boys. Of course this affected him a lot and made him determined to stand up to this horrible occupying force. If we let them do what they want, tomorrow they’ll stamp on us.” [emphasis added]

Making no effort to relieve viewers of the inaccurate impressions given by those false statements, Knell goes on to showcase another terrorist who carried out a car-ramming attack on March 4th.

“But many deadly incidents at the Gush Etzion junction are not so clear cut. Instead there are conflicting Israeli and Palestinian narratives that reflect the deepening mutual distrust. Israel’s army says the woman driving this car ploughed into soldiers and was shot dead. A knife was found on her dashboard. […] But in her village the mourners tell a different story. Mohammed Sabatin says his wife was scared and took a wrong turn at the junction.”

Viewers see the following unchallenged claim in the sub-titles translating an interviewee’s response to Knell’s question concerning the knife.

They planted it there. We haven’t got a knife like that and that is always what the occupation does. They planted the knife by the windscreen. It’s not logical; why would she put the knife where everyone could see it?” [emphasis added]

That false theme has been repeatedly seen during recent months and it is part of the incitement spread by Palestinian Authority officials. Viewers of this programme are not however informed of that crucial context before Knell goes on to show a gory display.

“The family claims Israel used excessive force to stop Amani and I’m shown her clothes, riddled with bullet holes.”

“The circumstances surrounding Amani’s death remain uncertain.”

Both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas do not share Knell’s uncertainty with regard to the circumstances which brought about the death of the ‘martyr’ as she was termed in the PA president’s condolence letter to her family.

Towards the end of the filmed report Knell tells viewers that “for Palestinians […] Gush Etzion is a symbol of Israel’s occupation” and audiences then see the following on-screen translation of the words of Nadi Abu Shakhadam:

They enjoy killing our children – only God knows why.”

Like the other lies highlighted above, that too goes unchallenged by Yolande Knell.

Both the half-hour long film and the radio report presented an opportunity for Knell to provide BBC audiences with more wide-ranging background and context than news reports on the terror attacks which have plagued Israel for over half a year allow. Instead, the corporation’s funding public was fed politicised messaging by means of the use of terminology such as “Palestinian land” and “illegal” settlements, undiluted PLO propaganda and downright lies which went entirely unchallenged by a journalist supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting.   

Related Articles:

Looking beyond the BBC’s simplistic portrayal of Gush Etzion

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC’s Connolly turns R4 report on Duma case into racism smear

The February 13th edition of the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ included an item (from 18:41 here) which was introduced by presenter Nick Robinson as follows:Today 13 2

“When three members of a Palestinian family were killed in an arson attack last summer, their deaths made headlines around the world. Now two Israelis have been charged with the killing of an eighteen month-old and his parents. It’s triggered angry protests because interrogation techniques normally used only against Palestinian security prisoners were employed against the Jewish Israeli suspects. These techniques include amongst others sleep deprivation, use of stress positions and the denial of the right to see a lawyer. Our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly has been examining the case.”

In fact the suspects were indicted six weeks prior to the appearance of this report rather than “now” as Robinson claimed.

Connolly’s report opened with sounds from a demonstration held in Tel Aviv in late December 2015.

KC: “In Tel Aviv a little play-acting with a purpose. A group of far-Right Jewish political activists are re-enacting the interrogation of a suspect at the hands of the Shabak – Israel’s internal security agency. The blindfolded suspect is tied to a bed frame and beaten while the interrogators shout questions. It’s shocking stuff and a banner held by a protester in the background gives a clue as to why some Israelis are shocked. A Jew, it says, doesn’t torture a Jew.”

Listeners then heard an unidentified voice say:

“They tried to force him to admit in this crime that he was not…eh…involved in by torturing him, literally.”

KC: “This is the voice of the father of a teenager who is one of two young settlers charged in connection with an arson attack in the Palestinian village of Duma which killed three members of the Dawabshe family. The case is thought to be the first in which enhanced interrogation techniques have been used against Israeli suspects and the teenager’s father is angry at their use against his son and sceptical about their effectiveness.”

Father: “He was beaten up. He was…ah… sitting on a special chair that’s called a torturing chair. While he was screaming with pain and begging for…from his investigators to let him go they said fine – if you admit in this murder in Duma we’ll let you go.”

Connolly continued with a stereotypical portrayal of the supposed views of the hundreds of thousands of people the BBC labels “settlers” – for which he did not produce a source.

“For settlers and for their supporters the decision of the Israeli state to use the weapon of enhanced interrogation is a shock and they’ve responded with shock tactics of their own – like this demonstration outside the house in Jerusalem of Yoram Cohen, the head of Shabak.”

That demonstration actually took place in December 2015 too. Connolly’s report then took a bizarre turn with the amplification of unfounded opportunistic allegations of Israeli racism from an official at the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department.

KC: “Elsewhere though the issue is viewed through different lenses. Palestinians say the same techniques have been used against them for decades. A clear double standard says Xavier Abu Eid of the PLO.”

XAE: “It’s basically that we’re not seen as equals; that’s a main point. We’re not equals of the [unintelligible] state. We’re not equals of the [unintelligible] equal rights. We’ve seen a transformation in Israeli society that it’s way more Right-wing and closer to religion. Many Israelis would justify what’s going on just by saying that we’re gentiles or non-Jews living here: that we don’t have the right to be treated under the same laws. Others would say no: you have the right to be treated under the same laws, however we have a special conditions that make us do this or that.” [emphasis added]

At no point in this report were listeners told that the Israeli High Court of Justice outlawed the use of ‘moderate physical pressure’ during interrogations in 1999. At no point were they informed that the provisions for exceptions to that ruling in the case of an impending threat to civilian lives depend not on the suspect’s nationality or ethnic identity but to the practical issue of the threat he poses to others. Abu Eid’s baseless claims of racist discrimination and “double standard” are therefore an impediment to audience understanding of this story which – for reasons best known to themselves – the producers of this item nevertheless chose to amplify.

Connolly’s item continued with promotion of the view of a political NGO.

KC: “The arson attack on the Palestinian village of Duma was a shocking crime and there was huge pressure on the authorities to identify suspects and to bring charges. But there are voices raised inside Israel against the use of anything that approximates to torture – whatever the euphemism used to describe it. The voice of Yael Stein from the human rights group B’tselem is among them.

YS: “It doesn’t matter if it works. It can be the most effective way to know what happened. It may be the most effective way to prevent future attacks. It doesn’t matter. I mean there are things that a society must say – I mean there are things that are not done. Beating people or torturing people or ill-treating people during interrogation is something that society that we live in should not accept.”

Listeners were not informed that in this specific case the authorisation of the use of special interrogation methods was given by the Attorney General after seventeen days of questioning during which the main suspect refused to talk to investigators. One can of course well imagine the tone the reports from Kevin Connolly and his colleagues would have taken had the investigation into the terror attack in Duma not resulted in the indictment of suspects.

Connolly closed his report as follows:

“The purpose of all the protests of course is to make the treatment of the Israeli suspects in the Duma arson attack a central issue in the case. And you can expect the arguments that have been rehearsed on the street to be played out again in court when it comes to trial.”

Significantly, Connolly failed to include in his report any official responses to the allegations made or any alternative views of the story. After Connolly’s report ended, Nick Robinson told listeners that:

“Israel has said that the questioning of the suspects in that Duma arson case was carried out under full judicial supervision and it also says it doesn’t draw any distinction between Jewish and Arab suspects in the investigation of terror offences.”

That short statement however obviously did little to balance the messaging and lack of relevant information in Connolly’s report and it certainly did nothing to relieve audiences of the inaccurate impressions received as a result of the inclusion in this report of Xavier Abu Eid’s baseless and immaterial smears.

 

More PLO messaging from Yolande Knell in Christmas report for BBC WS radio

In addition to the politicised Christmas Eve feature produced by Yolande Knell for the BBC News website on December 24th, she also reported from Bethlehem for BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’.Newshour 24 12

In that item (from 30:00 here) Knell recycled themes and interviewees seen in her other report, focusing on a low-key Christmas and economic hardship in Bethlehem. Once again audiences were not informed of the Palestinian Authority’s instructions to municipalities to dampen this year’s celebrations or the Council of Churches’ similar dictate.

Setting the scene in his introduction, presenter Tim Franks failed to adequately clarify to listeners exactly which party has been initiating the acts of violence seen over the last three months, using passive language to promote a false sense of equivalence and – through use of the ‘Israel says’ formula – implying that the BBC cannot independently confirm that most of the Palestinian casualties were either terrorists killed in the act or violent rioters. [emphasis added]

“Even as visitor numbers continue to dwindle Christmas upon Christmas, this year the reason is pretty clear: the tensions that have washed over Israel and the occupied territories show no sign of abating.”

“More than 130 Palestinians have been killed – more than half were said by Israel to be attackers.”

“In Bethlehem – a short distance to the south of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank – confrontations between young Palestinians and Israeli soldiers continue on an almost daily basis….”

Of course if no Palestinian rioters take to the streets, there are no “confrontations” but as usual, the BBC conceals cause and effect and Knell’s later description did little to help listeners understand the context of the violence either.

“But for weeks now this has been the sound on the streets. An Israeli jeep fires tear gas at the young Palestinians all around me. They’ve been using catapults to fling stones at the Israeli soldiers next to the high concrete wall here: part of Israel’s West Bank barrier.”

As in her written report, Knell provided a platform for opportunistic political messaging. [emphasis added]

Knell: “Back at the road where protests regularly break out in Bethlehem, I meet a priest: Father Jamal Khader.”

Khader: “Now more than ever we see more despair. People don’t believe any more in the two state solution with increase of settlements, with heavy presence of the Israeli army.”

That messaging compliments Knell’s later portrayal of the background to the ongoing wave of terror.

“Israel blames the recent violence on incitement by Palestinian leaders and social media but Palestinians say it stems from the lack of hope after the failure of years of peace efforts.”

More than three months into this wave of terror, the BBC has still not provided its audiences with a factual and comprehensive picture of the incitement underpinning the violence. As a result, BBC audiences are not in a position to be able to determine the relative merits of the Israeli and Palestinian claims paraphrased in this item – which have also appeared in previous reports from Knell and her colleagues.

As readers may recall, the PLO’s guidance document distributed in November to members of the international media under the title “Key Points to Remember when Reporting on Occupied Palestine states:

“The Israeli government attempts to shift the focus away from their colonization enterprise and illegal occupation, which is the root cause of the continuous uprisings of the Palestinian people who have for decades endured an Apartheid regime. Though Israeli spokespeople have claimed that the main issues are Al-Aqsa and “Palestinian incitement”, the fact of the matter is that Israel continues to systematically deny Palestinian rights.”

It therefore becomes increasingly difficult to avoid reaching the conclusion that BBC journalists have indeed chosen to ‘remember’ those ‘key points’ and to keep audiences in the dark on the topic of Palestinian incitement whilst simultaneously refraining from informing them of the actual circumstances of “the failure of years of peace efforts” which include the PA initiated Second intifada, the PA’s rejection of Olmert’s 2008 peace offer and the PA’s decision to scupper the round of talks held in 2013/14.

The corporation asserts that its audiences “can expect the BBC to keep them in touch with what is going on in the world” and that its priority is to “build a global understanding of international issues”. A media organization committed to doing that could not have systematically avoided informing its audiences about the incitement fueling a wave of terror attacks and violence which has been going on for over a hundred days.

Reviewing BBC compliance with PLO media guidance

Early in November the PLO’s ‘Negotiations Affairs Department’ – headed by frequent BBC contributor Saeb Erekat – issued a guidance document to members of the international media titled “Key Points to Remember when Reporting on Occupied Palestine“.  

Analysis of the document’s content falls outside our remit but has already been carried out by Dr Eran Lerman at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.  In this post we will take a look at the degree of BBC compliance with some of the PLO messaging laid out in that ten-point media guidance.

The PLO’s first point is titled “Israel occupies the State of Palestine” and journalists are told that “Israel is the occupying power and Palestine a nation under foreign occupation”.

Whilst the BBC stops short of describing the geographical areas controlled by different Palestinian factions as a state, it does describe them as ‘occupied’ – including the Gaza Strip.

A BBC profile of the Gaza Strip dating from 2009 and still available online informs readers that:

“In 2005, Israel pulled out the troops occupying Gaza, along with thousands of Jews who had settled in the territory. As far as Israel was concerned that was the end of the occupation.

However, that has not been accepted internationally as Israel still exercises control over most of Gaza’s land borders, as well as its territorial waters and airspace.”

That messaging has been frequently repeated in BBC News reports – see examples here, here and here – and was defended by the BBC Trust’s ESC in 2013.

The BBC regularly used the phrases “occupied West Bank” (see recent examples here, here and here) and “occupied East Jerusalem” (see for example here and here) in accordance with the BBC Academy ‘style guide’ which states:

“Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967. A law in 1980 formalised an administrative measure tantamount to the annexation of land taken as a result of the 1967 War. The claim to East Jerusalem is not recognised internationally. Instead, under international law, East Jerusalem is considered to be occupied territory.”

Individual locations are also described in BBC content as being “occupied” – including the H2 area of Hebron.

Regarding this point, the BBC obviously adopted PLO messaging long ago.   

The second point in the PLO document is headed “The main issue is the Israeli Occupation” and in relation to the current wave of terrorism, members of the media are informed that:

“The Israeli government attempts to shift the focus away from their colonization enterprise and illegal occupation, which is the root cause of the continuous uprisings of the Palestinian people who have for decades endured an Apartheid regime. Though Israeli spokespeople have claimed that the main issues are Al-Aqsa and “Palestinian incitement”, the fact of the matter is that Israel continues to systematically deny Palestinian rights.”

BBC audiences have seen that messaging promoted on numerous occasions in recent weeks – not least by the corporation’s Middle East editor.

“I think that there is…err….there’s a lot of anger and rage at the continuing occupation and the fact is that the underlying context of all the violence that really ever happens here to do with the conflict is the conflict itself and the almost fifty year occupation of the Palestinian territories by the Israelis and that generates a sense of hopelessness, of hatred and – in some people as well – murderous rage.” (Jeremy Bowen, ‘Newsnight’, 13/10/15)

“Many Palestinians have told me they believe the reason for the attacks is that another generation is realising its future prospects will be crippled by the indignities and injustice of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. […]

Violence does not come out of the blue. It has a context. Once again, the problem is the unresolved conflict between Palestinians and Jews. It is at the heart of all the violence that shakes this city.

A big part of the conflict is the military occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, that has lasted for nearly 50 years. It is impossible to ignore the effects of an occupation that is always coercive and can be brutal.

In successive Palestinian generations, it has created hopelessness and hatred. In some cases, that bursts out into murderous anger.” (Jeremy Bowen, BBC News website, 15/10/15)

“The current violence stems from decades of unresolved conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. At its most basic, it is a fight over land and national rights.” (BBC News website, 13/10/15)

Clearly that PLO talking point has been well absorbed and embraced.

Point four is headed “For Israel, forcible displacement and colonization are an official policy, not the two-state solution” and reporters are told that “On the eve of Israeli elections in March 2015, Netanyahu promised his constituents, “If I’m elected, there will be no Palestinian State””.

The BBC has engaged in selective, context-free promotion of that statement both at the time that it was made and subsequently.

The PLO’s fifth point is titled “East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Occupied State of Palestine” and journalists are told that “the legal status of East Jerusalem is an occupied territory, and must continue to be referred to as such”.

As can be seen in the above link to the BBC’s ‘style guide’, the corporation has long complied with that dictate. Specific neighbourhoods are also similarly portrayed.

“The rabbi’s killer, who was shot dead, came from Jabel Mukaber in occupied East Jerusalem.”

Point six also relates to Jerusalem and is headed “Israeli settlements in Occupied East Jerusalem are as illegal as settlements in the rest of the Occupied State of Palestine”. Members of the media are told that:

“Pisgat Ze’ev, Gilo, French Hill, Neve Ya’akoub, Har Homa, Ramat Shlomo, Giva’at Hamatos, East Talpiyot (Armon HaNetziv) and Ramot, among others, are all illegal Israeli settlements and should be referred to as such.”

The BBC has long complied fully with that dictate too and recent reports have described Pisgat Zeev and East Talpiot, among other places, as “settlements”.

The document’s seventh point – titled “The Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound is under Israeli Occupation just as the rest of East Jerusalem” – includes the following statement:

“While some media outlets have preferred to focus their discussion on whether Al-Aqsa is holy for Muslims or for Jews, they tend to omit the fact that this Muslim holy site is under Israeli Occupation, as is the rest of Occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City.”BBC map settlements

The BBC has even produced a handy map to aid promotion of the notion that the Old City of Jerusalem – including Temple Mount – is under occupation and its Jewish Quarter an “illegal settlement”.

Point eight is headed “Israel has effectively changed Al-Aqsa’s Status Quo” and it describes the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif as follows:

“The Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound is a holy site comprised of 144 dunums [sic] of land, which includes the two mosques (the Dome of the Rock and Al-Qibli) as well as open areas for prayers around them.”

Recent months have seen repeated cases in which BBC journalists have likewise promoted the erroneous notion that Temple Mount is “al Aqsa Mosque”. The PLO also circulated an earlier directive to journalists on that topic, urging them not to use the term Temple Mount.

Notably, throughout its coverage of the recent wave of terrorism, the BBC has failed to inform audiences in its own words that Israel has neither changed – nor has any intention of changing – the status quo on Temple Mount and has even amplified conspiracy theories relating to that issue.

In point nine – titled “International protection is a right for the Palestinian people” – journalists are told that Israeli policy towards the Palestinians includes “forced displacement and collective punishment”.

In October BBC audiences heard Kevin Connolly describe temporary checkpoints at the entrances to Jerusalem neighbourhoods from which many of the terrorists carrying out recent attacks had come as creating “the sense that restrictions on movement are a form of collective punishment”. Within 24 hours of the commencement of the 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip the BBC began promoting the notion of ‘collective punishment’ and that evidence-free distortion of a legal term became a theme repeated in its coverage of the conflict. 

Throughout this document the ‘apartheid’ trope is promoted several times. The BBC is of course no stranger to promotion of that trope. The term ‘Israeli occupying force’ is also used by the PLO in this document and recently we saw similar phrasing used by BBC Arabic. The term “international law” is also liberally scattered throughout the guidance and as veteran readers will be aware, partisan presentation of that topic is a permanent fixture in BBC content.

Whilst we do not know whether or not BBC journalists received this PLO document at the beginning of November, it is obvious that BBC content has already long complied with much of the ‘guidance’ for the media as laid down by that organisation and that recent reports have included messaging eerily similar to that promoted in this document.  

But whilst the query of whether the PLO managed to save itself a stamp remains unanswered, the real question is how BBC adoption and promotion of specific terminology and themes – which are obviously viewed by the PLO as furthering its aims and narrative – can be said to contribute to meeting the corporation’s public purpose remit of enhancing audience understanding of international issues through accurate and impartial reporting. 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News amplification for Abbas’ lies and incitement about ‘dead’ terrorist

On October 14th PA President Mahmoud Abbas (whose elected mandate expired well over six years ago) made his first significant public appearance since the current wave of terrorism in Israel began. Speaking live on PA television, Abbas promoted a string of libels and falsehoods – but one in particular stood out.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of “executing” a 13-year-old Palestinian who earlier this week stabbed an Israeli boy in Jerusalem and said the Palestinians “will not agree to Israel’s policy of occupation.” […]

Referring to an attack two days ago, in which Hassan Manasra, 15, and his cousin Ahmed Manasra, 13, stabbed a 13-year-old boy and 25-year-old man in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev, seriously wounding both, Abbas said Israel killed the two attackers in “cold blood”. […]

Other Palestinian officials have also accused Israel of executing the teens in cold blood.”

A video of the part of the address reported above can be found here, courtesy of the Jerusalem Post. Notably, when the PLO later released an English translation of Abbas’ address in Arabic, the term ‘executing’ was downgraded

“In a speech he made on Wednesday evening, Abbas insisted that the Palestinians would not surrender to the “Israeli aggression” against the Palestinian people, their holy places, homes, and the “executions of children like Ahmed Manasra.”

In an English translation of Abbas’ speech released by the PLO, however, the Palestinian president is quoted as saying Israel “shoots” Palestinian children in cold blood “as they did with the child Ahmed Manasra,” replacing the word “executions” with a more moderate language.”

Of course Mahmoud Abbas refrained from mentioning that “the child” in question, together with his cousin, carried out a vicious terror attack in Pisgat Zeev – as footage from security cameras released by the police shows.

Abbas also neglected to mention that Ahmed Manasra is alive and receiving treatment in a Jerusalem hospital.

So how did the BBC report that libelous incitement from the PA president? In an article titled “Attacks continue in Jerusalem despite new checkpoints” which appeared on the BBC News website late on the evening of October 14th, readers found the following.

Abbas libel in article 14 10

The claim that the attackers “stabbed an Israeli” is inaccurate – they stabbed two people in that incident – and that point was corrected in a later version of the report. With a link inserted to a Tweet from the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, the passage now reads:

Abbas libel in art 14 10 later

Whilst this BBC report amplifies Mahmoud Abbas’ inflammatory and inaccurate claims, the corporation does not make an independent statement of its own to clarify to readers that Abbas’ libels are baseless or provide them with any of the evidence showing that Ahmed Manasra is alive.

Instead, it resorts to a version the well-worn ‘Israel says’ formula, which over the years BBC audiences have been well groomed to understand as meaning that the BBC does not confirm or endorse the information provided by Israeli sources. And predictably – in line with its editorial policy to date – the BBC also refrains from informing its audiences how incitement such as this latest example from Abbas has fueled the current wave of terror in Israel.

So much for the BBC’s claim that it is “standard-setter of international journalism“.

 

 

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ provides propaganda platform for Erekat yet again

The last thing that can be said about the PLO’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat is that he suffers from a lack of BBC airtime but nevertheless, the end of May saw him back at one of his regular spots – ‘Hardtalk‘.Erekat Hardtalk May 2015

Not only did Erekat have nothing new to tell host Zeinab Badawi, he even recycled statements made during previous appearances on the same programme. At 10:32 in the video below, Erekat says:

“See, in my opinion Christian and Muslim Palestinians will not convert to Judaism and become Israelis. Jews will not convert to Islam and Christianity and become Palestinians.”

If that sounds familiar, that may be because only last year Erekat made a very similar statement during a previous ‘Hardtalk’ interview.

“Are Christian and Muslim Palestinians going to convert to become Israelis? Or are Jews going to convert to Christianity and Islam and become Palestinians? This is not happen.” 

And if it rang a bell even in 2014, that could be because back in 2011 Erekat told Zeinab Badawi in yet another ‘Hardtalk’ interview:

“I don’t think Christian and Muslim Palestinians would convert to Judaism and become Israelis. I don’t think that Jews would convert to Islam and Christianity and become Palestinian.”

In other words, for four years at least Saeb Erekat has been pushing the same broken record mantra and not one BBC journalist has bothered to follow it up by informing audiences that not all Israelis are Jews – as the country’s two million strong non-Jewish population (25.1%) indicates – or by asking him why Jews cannot be citizens of a Palestinian state.

Let’s take look at some of the other falsehoods propagated by Erekat – with no disturbance from Badawi – in this programme.

“I have as a Palestinian recognized the State of Israel’s right to exist on the ’67 borders.”

“We recognize them to live in peace and security in the ’67 borders – that’s 78% of historic British mandated Palestine – and accepted to establish our state in the remaining 22% of the land.”

There is of course no such thing as “’67 borders” because the 1949 Armistice Lines were specifically defined as not being borders – as even the BBC’s style guide notes. Nevertheless, Badawi makes no effort to clarify the point to viewers.

“In one week of his government he [Netanyahu] issues more than two thousand housing units of settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. They’re moving their offices – his ministers – to occupied East Jerusalem and today, literally speaking, there are buses in Israel that Palestinians cannot use. They call it sterilized buses and there will be roads that they call sterilized roads.”

Those “East Jerusalem” apartments are in fact located in Ramat Shlomo and have been going through the planning process since 2010. One Israeli minister has approached the Finance Ministry with a request for new offices in Jerusalem. The same ministry has a long existing office in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Jerusalem: an area which was classified as no-man’s land throughout the 19 years of the Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem. There are no “sterilized buses” and the restriction on travel for PA registered vehicles on certain small sections of road arises from the very real security issues which of course do not get a mention in this programme at all.

“I’m telling the Israelis if you worry about courts, stop committing crimes. […] I cannot have every two years 12,000 Palestinians killed and wounded in Gaza. I cannot leave the continuation of the settlement activities, by-pass roads – now they call sterilized road – sterilized buses. I cannot continue living a deeper apartheid system in the West Bank and East Jerusalem than the one that existed in South Africa. So what I’m telling the Israelis wake up, wake up. What you’re doing in the West Bank in accordance with the international law – the four Geneva Conventions and the 4th Convention of 1949 – are war crimes.”

Like the vast majority of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria, Saeb Erekat lives under full Palestinian Authority control. The topic of Palestinian self-rule in areas A&B is of course not mentioned at any point in this programme either and Badawi sits idly by as Erekat promotes the false and defamatory notion of a system of ‘apartheid’ worse “than the one that existed in South Africa”.

“I know I have an agreed agenda with them, signed by the Israeli government, saying that permanent status negotiations issues are borders, Jerusalem, water, security. Is Mr Netanyahu willing to utter the sentence two states on the 1967 lines? […] Is he willing to carry out his commitment – not condition – to stop settlement activities in the land that’s supposed to be the State of Palestine?”

“What is between me and the Israelis are elements of contracts, agreements signed. There are obligations emanating from those agreements signed – on me as a Palestinian and on Israel. And Israel must stop settlement activities and must accept two states on 1967 lines and must accept to sit with me to delineate the borders on the basis of the 1967 lines. If they’re willing to honour their commitments we’ll meet tomorrow.”

The “agreements” and “contracts” signed between the Palestinians and Israel are the Oslo Accords. In contrast to the misleading impression given to viewers of this programme, nowhere in those agreements is any restriction placed on building in Israeli towns and villages in Judea & Samaria or Jerusalem and nowhere do they state that the 1949 Armistice Lines – or “67 lines” as Erekat calls them – would be the final borders between Israel and a Palestinian state. That, of course, is precisely why the subject of borders is one of the issues to be discussed in final status negotiations.

“We’re willing to engage seriously on the basis of the agreed terms of reference specified in the Quartet’s statements saying that negotiations should be on the basis of two states on 1967.”

The Quartet’s February 2015 statement makes no mention of “1967” and neither does its 2003 roadmap stipulate that Erekat’s much-touted “1967 lines” are a basis for negotiations.

“The fact that Palestine became and has gained the legal status for observer state meant that it’s a state under occupation. The West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem is identified as now as a Higher [sic] Contracting Party to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. […] Palestine has a status of a state under occupation like what countries like Norway, Belgium, Holland, France, Korea, the Philippines were in the Second World War under German and Japanese occupation [Badawi: sure, sure…] so the Israelis cannot say it’s disputed territories…”

Legal experts contacted by BBC Watch in connection with Erekat’s claim that the 2012 granting of the status of UN non-member observer state automatically confers High Contracting Party status advised us that “neither joining the Geneva Conventions nor receiving observer status in the General Assembly are procedures for assigning territorial sovereignty, and neither action could give “Palestine” sovereignty over the territory of “West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.”

“Zeinab, settlements in the West Bank including East Jerusalem are illegal settlements. Actually, in accordance with the 4th Geneva Convention these settlements are war crimes.”

That inaccuracy is reinforced by Badawi at 07:45:

“And of course, as you say, international law says that the settlements are illegal.

Once again the BBC breaches its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to inform audiences of the existence of legal opinions which disagree with the politically partial line it chooses to promote.

Were viewers of this programme provided with factual information which would aid them in building an “understanding of international issues“? Regrettably, no. Were they provided with unchallenged misinformation in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality? Unfortunately, yes. That, however, is par for the course in any BBC content featuring Saeb Erekat.

Related Articles:

 BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part one

BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part two

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BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the first part of an interview with Saeb Erekat on the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk’ which was broadcast on February 18thErekat HT

The remainder of the interview begins with presenter Stephen Sackur challenging Erekat on the subject of the ‘right of return’.

“…there are mixed messages here because not so very long ago – just a few weeks ago – your president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas was telling a delegation of young Israelis that he would not – and I quote his words – drown Israel with millions of Palestinian refugees to change the nature of Israel. If he’s prepared to say that, then surely it is not much of a stretch to give the Israelis what they want; acknowledge the nation of the Jewish people and then move on to the issues that really are at the crux of this including borders, security, settlements and Jerusalem.”

Unfortunately, Sackur does not seem to appreciate that even if Abbas’ quoted statement was sincere (and there is of course ample evidence of the PA’s practice of delivering differing messages in English and in Arabic), there is little sign that it is representative of the approach taken by broader Palestinian society. Having accused Sackur of “repeating exactly what Prime Minister Netanyahu is saying”, Erekat goes on to say:

“Now let me put the record straight on what Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] said about refugees. No refugee mandated me to negotiate on his behalf. In international law, the British Palestinian who lives in Britain and has British citizenship, he will make his choice. Abu Mazen said that’s the choice of every single refugee. They have…we have to establish an international mechanism and in that international mechanism, US, Europe, Arabs, UN, host countries, Israel, Palestine will go to refugees and give them the choices of whether they have the right to come to Palestine with the compensation – Israel will compensation – remaining where they are. And that’s how you end conflict and that’s how you end the claims. But if the Israelis want for me to come and through Hardtalk and say I give this up, I give this in, I give this up – what is there left to negotiation?

And I say proudly today that my president says he recognize the State of Israel right to exist on ’67. Can you tell me if there is one single Israeli minister in the cabinet – including their prime minister – who have [sic] said that he’s willing to recognize the State of Palestine on ’67? He’s willing to recognize East Jerusalem as capital? And they should stand tall and apologise for the Palestinian refugees’ suffering. They made them suffer and they should reach out to them and yes an international mechanism must be established to give them the choice.”

Avoiding informing audiences of the Arab League policies which have deliberately kept the descendants of refugees in that status for generations or any mention of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, Sackur also fails to clarify the very important point being made by Erekat: that the PLO negotiators do not actually consider themselves to have a mandate to negotiate on the vital subject of refugees. Instead, he moves on to question Erekat on the subject of land swaps whilst himself also promoting the erroneous notion of a “’67 border”.

“If I may say so, your repetition of the ’67 line as a fundamental principle is well known but it is also, is it not, well known that the Americans have taken a view in the course of this Kerry negotiation that there will have to be modifications to the ’67 border and that according again to leaks in the American press, the Americans believe a line can be drawn and land swaps implemented which will leave 75 to 80 percent of Jewish settlers able to stay in their homes on occupied territory as part of the peace deal. Are you saying that is fundamentally impossible?” Hardtalk Erkat WS

Erekat replies:

“Look if you guys think about nation states swapping territories by their consent, it happened between many countries you know – Peru/Ecuador, US/Mexico, US/Canada, Jordan/Iraq, Jordan/Saudi Arabia. It happened in Africa, in many cases. Now: can I see the map of the State of Israel? Can someone in Israel… can John Kerry come to me and tell me this is the…these are the borders of Israel ’67 and we want you to have land swaps in accordance with this map? What swaps? You talking about – without me knowing – which defines Israel’s borders? They haven’t even – they’re the only nation on earth who have not recognized their borders. They don’t have borders yet. They didn’t define their borders. So the minute they recognize their borders, the minute they recognize me as a sovereign Palestinian state, I’m willing to engage in the concept of land swaps. But how can I do this now before them putting a map on the table of their borders and their map? They haven’t done this. They haven’t been willing to say ’67….”

Sackur: “What they have done…I’ll tell you what they have done and this – if I may…”

Erekat: “They have ….10,500 housing units. They have added 10,500 housing units existing settlements in ..”

Sackur: “Yes they have.”

Erekat: “…the supposed to be Palestinian state – which is four times the natural growth of New York – in the past four months and you’re telling me this is the behaviour of a government that wants to make two-state solution?”

Sackur: “Yep. Every Israeli and international monitoring organization that looks at Jewish settlement activity says the construction continues apace. Nobody disputes that.”

In other words, Sackur gives BBC ‘authority’ to Erekat’s claim that 10,500 housing units have been “added” – which most listeners or viewers will take to mean built – in the past four months. He makes no attempt to clarify to audiences that Erekat’s numbers actually relate to building tenders and announcements – as can be seen in a document produced by the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department which Erekat heads.

In fact, the statistics for the whole of 2013 – not just from the end of July when the talks resumed – show a total of 44,343 building starts in the whole of Israel, with 2,534 of those being in Judea & Samaria and 4,625 in the entire city of Jerusalem. The statistics for completed construction in 2013 show 41,972 completes in the entire country of which 1,365 were located in Judea & Samaria and 3,652 in the city of Jerusalem as a whole. Clearly both Sackur and Erekat are quoting inaccurate statistics and hence deliberately misleading BBC audiences on this subject. 

Next Sackur challenges Erekat on the practicalities of the demand for eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

“I’ve been visiting your part of the world for the best part of a quarter of a century – almost as long as you’ve been a negotiator. I have seen the facts on the ground change over the years. East Jerusalem for example is now – the Arab East Jerusalem that we talk about – is encircled by a vast chain of Jewish housing from – what is it? – Pisgat Ze’ev in the north, right round through Ma’ale Adumim to Gilo and Har Homa in the south. I mean that is the reality and when you talk about East Jerusalem being the future capital of Palestine, you know as well as I do that East Jerusalem is now fundamentally disconnected from the West Bank. Isn’t it time for you to deal with realities rather than dreams?

Erekat answers:

“No actually I’m not dreaming. I’m gonna tell you something very frankly Stephen. Without East Jerusalem being the capital of Palestine there is no meaning to have a Palestinian state. And I want any Israeli to look me in the eye and walk me through my home town Jericho on the Jordan River to Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean in the year 2019. What do they see on this land? Are Christian and Muslim Palestinians going to convert to become Israelis? Or are Jews going to convert to Christianity and Islam and become Palestinians? This is not happen. This fait accompli policies of settlements. As much as they dismantle them in Sinai and in Gaza, these are the main obstacle to peace and we’ve been saying that they have to make the choice – settlements or peace – but they can’t have both and that’s why we’re reaching this difficult situation and that’s why Netanyahu is insisting in destroying and undermining Kerry’s efforts by the continuation of the settlement activities in Pisgat Ze’ev, Neve Ya’akov, Ma’ale Adumim and in the West Bank and in everywhere.”

With no questioning of Erekat’s bizarre ‘conversion’ statements and no challenge to Erekat’s chimera of ‘settlements’ – including Neve Ya’akov which was established in 1924 on Jewish-owned land – as the main obstacle to an agreement, Sackur goes on to ask his interviewee to name “one significant, fundamental concession” made by the Palestinian negotiating team.

Unsurprisingly, seeing as he uses the inaccurate term himself, Sackur fails to correct the reference to “1967 borders” when Erekat answers:

“We have recognized the State of Israel’s right to exist on the 1967 borders. That is 78% of the British Mandate and historic Palestine. And we have accepted to establish our Palestinian state on the 1967 lines. That’s 22% of the land. That’s number one. Number two: we have accepted to entertain – once Israel defines its borders of ’67 and accepts the State of Palestine on ’67 – to entertain the idea of swapping land. Number three: we have accepted to be a country with limited arms and invited a third party to be in the State of Palestine – from America, from Europe, from the UN, from all over – and to come and make sure that we will comply with the agreement. We have accepted, you know, to have East Jerusalem capital of Palestine, West Jerusalem capital of Israel, but we said then we can have an open city for peace, where Christians, Muslims and Jews can come to their places of worship and for worship without any impediment, without anybody preventing them like they do to Christians and Muslims today…to come to Jerusalem and pray..”

Sackur makes absolutely no attempt to challenge Erekat on his blatantly false representation of the situation regarding freedom of worship in Jerusalem at present and neither does he raise the issue of lack of satisfactory access – in breach of the Oslo Accords – to Jewish holy sites already under PA control. Instead, he continues by asking Erekat to confirm the PA’s agreement to the placing of some sort of international force in the Jordan Valley, which Erekat does but with the caveat that “this force will not be a combating force”.

Ignoring the issue of the existing precedents of multiple failures of international ‘peacekeeping’ forces to actually keep the peace in the region, Sackur goes on to challenge the practicalities of that idea, rightly pointing out that there is no chance of it being accepted by Hamas and other rejectionist Palestinian factions.

The next subject brought up by Sackur is that of what will happen if the current talks fail.

“…let’s run through the constant question when we’re talking about negotiations: who really holds the cards? Who has the power? Isn’t the truth that while you talk about your plan B option which is, you say, going back to the UN, strengthening the Palestinian case there, going perhaps to the International Criminal Court – the fact is you don’t hold the cards, you don’t have the power because if these talks collapse the Palestinian economy will collapse and you’ve said yourself that the Palestinian Authority itself may collapse as well.”

With regard to the feasibility of the PA “going perhaps to the International Criminal Court”, it is worth reading Professor Eugene Kontorovich’s paper from 2013 on the subject.

Erekat’s response consists largely of yet another attempt to persuade viewers that the success – or lack of it – of the current talks depends entirely upon the prime minister of Israel.

“Well I said the following Stephen – and please employ your hearing skills. Number one: if Netanyahu foils the Kerry attempts, yes – we will sign on all instruments of accessions to UN agency protocols and conventions including the Rome Statute and the ICC and those who worry from international courts and tribunals, they should stop committing crimes. Number two: I think the PA cannot sustain itself in the current form so Netanyahu will be the occupying power from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean and when I say that failure is not an option, I may be exaggerating because failure is an option, but I’m saying failure is not an option because of the nightmare scenarios the day after. I hope and pray that Netanyahu and his government will stand tall and extend an immediate recognition for the State of Palestine on the 1967 lines. I hope that Netanyahu and his government will define their borders on ’67 and they work with Kerry in order to achieve a successful end to his efforts, made an two-state solution – the State of Palestine living side by side the State of Israel on the 1967 borders and a solution to all the issues that we’re talking about is doable and we can do it. But if Netanyahu chooses the path of continuing dictations and settlements, incursions and siege and closure, he’s doomed and we’re doomed and the region’s gonna be doomed.”

To finish the interview, Sackur asks Erekat for his personal reflections on two decades of negotiations, but notably avoids bringing up the subject of the PA’s decision to scupper the peace process by instigating the second Intifada.

“As we end then; a personal reflection. You’ve been deeply negative about Netanyahu and his negotiating position throughout this interview. I just wonder – if you are honest with yourself and you look at what you personally have achieved as a peace negotiator over more than 20 years, do you feel that you’ve been played for a fool? You’ve been suckered into a process which over 20 years frankly appears to have delivered nothing according to your own terms and which – during which – the facts on the ground have worked against the Palestinian people. Do you regret the process that you’ve played such a big part in?”

That avoidance of any mention of the Oslo Accords permits Erekat to mislead BBC audiences further by erasing the fact that his “home town” was occupied by Jordan even before Erekat was born and by omitting any mention of the fact that Jericho has already been under the control of the Palestinian Authority for twenty years – since 1994.

“No Stephen. No I’m proud. I’m proud of I’m doing. I’m not doing a job. I’m doing the greater favour for myself, my grandchildren, my children and the Palestinian people. I’m trying to make peace. I’m trying to change the abnormality of the situation. I was 12 years old when the occupation came to my home town Jericho. I’m sick and tired of somebody managing my life, directing my life, oppressing me and oppressing my children. I’m sick and tired of not knowing whether my children will come home every day or not. I want my children to be like your children Stephen. If this is a crime, if this is being fooled – yes, I’m doing it. I’m doing it because I was born to bring Palestine back to the map.” 

In conclusion, this interview is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, Sackur did go some way towards seeking to clarify Erekat’s position on internal Palestinian opposition to an international peacekeeping force in the Jordan Rift Valley, on the subject of the recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, on the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees, on land swaps and on eastern Jerusalem.

On the other hand, Sackur allowed BBC audiences to go away with damaging inaccurate impressions regarding, among other things, freedom of worship in Jerusalem, 1967 “borders”, the “occupation” of Jericho and Israeli building. He made no attempt whatsoever to challenge Erekat’s conspiracy theory concerning US foreign policy or his ridiculous “son of the Canaanites” narrative and he failed to question Erekat’s promotion of Israeli housing as the main obstacle to peace and his repeated claim that the success or failure of the talks is entirely dependent upon the will of Israel’s prime minister, whilst simultaneously excluding all mention of issues such as the rise in Palestinian terrorism since the beginning of the talks or incitement and the glorification of terrorism on the part of the PA.

In short, much of the opportunity provided by this interview to inform BBC audiences of the real difficulties facing negotiators in the current talks was wasted on providing a platform for the promotion of Saeb Erekat’s blatant propaganda and historically inept “narrative”.

The UK taxpayer continues to contribute not insignificant sums of money to keep Erekat’s PLO Negotiations Affairs Department (NAD) afloat – and has done for the last two decades. One of several “risk descriptions” cited in a risk assessment compiled by DfID ahead of a particular funding initiative which is still ongoing is “NAD outputs contain inaccurate information, vilification or incitement” and that risk is supposed to be monitored by the UK government.  Those same UK taxpayers – many if not most of whom are also BBC licence fee payers – might hence have expected a more robust performance from their national broadcaster (which is still, in part, government-funded) in challenging Erekat’s promotion of inaccurate information and incitement in the form of warped historical “narratives”. 

Had that been the case however, a link to Erekat’s ‘Hardtalk’ interview might perhaps not be currently featured on the NAD website. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part one

 

BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part one

The February 18th edition of the BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ featured presenter Stephen Sackur once again interviewing the programme’s frequent flyer Saeb Erekat. The programme is available in the UK on BBC iPlayer and an audio version was also available from the BBC World Service for a limited period of time, along with a BBC World Service podcast. In addition, the first part of the interview was uploaded by the BBC to YouTube and featured on the BBC News website, as well as on the Hardtalk webpageErekat HT

Notably, Sackur made no attempt to challenge Erekat’s opening thinly veiled conspiracy theory-style accusation of Israeli influence over American foreign policy.

“And I really hope that John Kerry will move in the direction of what’s needed and not in the direction of what’s possible. What’s possible in American foreign policy means what the prime minister of Israel can do and what he cannot do and that’s why we always reach dead-end in this [sic] attempts in the past. I hope that John Kerry will move in the direction of what’s needed and put on the table what’s needed for a two-state solution on 1967.”

But Sackur’s failure to challenge Erekat’s serial falsehoods becomes even more apparent in the rest of the interview; the parts not as enthusiastically distributed and promoted by the BBC. Sackur asks Erekat if the PLO will be prepared to continue talks after the end of April.

SS: “They’re [the Americans] suggesting, yes, they will put some ideas out there, but there will be a lot of talking that will have to happen after the end of April. What’s your position? Are you saying it’s the end of April or bust?”

Erekat: “If the Israeli government succeeds in foiling Kerry’s efforts, then why would you extend the negotiations after 29th of April? That’s the big question. As you said, the deal was, is that we enter these negotiations for 9 months, covers all permanent status issues, no interim agreements…err.. and then the Israeli behaviour since that time – since the beginning of the negotiations – I think they introduce 10,500 housing units, killed 41 Palestinians, demolished 219 homes, escalated their attacks on Palestinians and they haven’t been preparing their people for what it takes to have John Kerry succeed.”

Sackur refrains from asking Erekat how many of those “10,500 housing units” exist only on paper, or how many of the Palestinians killed between the end of July 2013 and the present were involved in terrorist activity or how many of the demolished structures were built illegally. He of course fails to offer audiences any balancing information on the subject of how many Israelis were killed in the same period or how many terror attacks and missile attacks took place or to question Erekat on the subjects of PA sponsored incitement and glorification of terror and how the PA leaders are “preparing their people” for peace. Erekat continues: Hardtalk Erekat on ME pge

“I haven’t heard any Israeli official – Prime Minister Netanyahu or any of his ministers – speak about two-state solution on 1967 lines. As a matter of fact I haven’t heard any of their government officials say that we need two states on the 1967 lines – one 1967. I haven’t heard this. So if they want to continue this line of dictations and settlements rather than peace and negotiations, why should we extend it for one minute after the 29th of April?”

Sackur fails to clarify to audiences what a “two-state solution on 1967 lines” actually means and why Israeli policy is not in line with that Palestinian demand. He then goes on to ask Erekat if the PLO is prepared to recognise Israel as the Jewish state, to which Erekat replies:

“Well, Stephen, the name of the State of Israel is the State of Israel. As much as you have a birth certificate of your own, Israel has a birth certificate of its own and the name registered at the UN is the State of Israel. And no – I will tell you very frankly – I will not change my narrative. I will not change my history. I will not change my religion. I’m the son of Jericho…”

Sackur does robustly challenge those statements.

“But you’re going to have to change your narrative because your narrative at the moment is one of diplomatic failure, conflict, hatred and a running sore which leaves the Palestinian people without a state, without economic development. You need to change the narrative and if that requires you to recognise Israel as the state of the Jewish people and therefore, of course, a fundamental compromise on your part in terms of the right of return of those Palestinians and ancestors of those who lost their homes in 1948, so be it. It’s time to do it, isn’t it?”

Erekat’s notably personalised response is delivered in near-hysterical tones.

“What else? Now you want Israel as Jewish state? You want me to give up on East Jerusalem as my capital as Netanyahu says? He wants me to give up on my independence and sovereignty because he wants to stay instead of Palestine and his army for years to come. Well if that’s what he has in mind, he can make peace with himself and dictate on the – this will not happen. My narrative here is that, as you said, I’ve been trying to make peace and save lives of Israelis and Palestinians and change the status quo towards the two-state solution, towards [unintelligible] between Palestinians and Israelis for the last 20 years. And those who failed me are those who continued with the settlement activities and dictations and the fait accompli policies. That’s number one.

Number two: my narrative is I’m the son of Jericho. I’m the proud son of Jericho. My home town this year is 10,000 years old. The Natufians built this town. I’m their ancestor. I’m their grandchild. I’m this grandchild of the Canaanites. It’s my narrative, it’s my story, it’s my religion. I was here thousands of years before Yoshua Bin Nun came and burnt my home town Jericho. So why should I say that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people? I recognise the State of Israel right to exist…” 

At that point Erekat is interrupted by Sackur, but the latter makes no attempt whatsoever to relieve BBC audiences of the inaccurate impressions created by Erekat’s “narrative”. Of course this is not the first time that the PLO’s chief negotiator has fabricated history: he promoted the same myth at the Munich security conference just a couple of weeks before this Hardtalk interview. According to a BBC profile of Erekat, he was born in Jerusalem (specifically the Abu Dis neighbourhood) but Sackur does not challenge his self-made redefinition as a “son of Jericho” or question him as to the fluidity of his “narrative” which allows him to also claim to be “a Bedouin, an Arab and a Jordanian” when interviewed by an Arab media outlet.  

Erekat’s casual relationship with facts is of course notorious: he was after all the man who played a big part in persuading the Western media – including the BBC – that a ‘massacre’ had taken place in Jenin in 2002. But there is much more to Erekat’s ‘Canaanite’ claims than just historical incompetence; the negation of Jewish history and the promotion of a supposedly equally relevant narrative is part and parcel of the PA’s policy and tactics – and one which should have been exposed to BBC audiences if the corporation is to meet its obligation to “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”.

The remainder of the interview will be discussed in part two of this post.

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BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part two