Weekend long read

1) As has been the case in past years, BBC audiences did not see any coverage of the events earlier this month marking the anniversary of the founding of Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement. The ITIC has published a report on some of those events.

“January 1, 2018, was the 53rd anniversary of the founding of the Fatah movement. Various events were held in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip to mark the day. Among the participating institutions were universities and colleges in Judea and Samaria. Events at academic institutions were mainly organized by Fatah student movements, which held marches and demonstrations, and put on presentations. […]

The Fatah movement, on which the PA is founded, integrated unambiguous themes into events marking the anniversary, among them the glorification of shaheeds who died in suicide bombing and mass “self-sacrifice” attacks and encouragement for suicide bombing attacks.”

2) At the Times of Israel, Yaakov Lappin takes a look at the security challenges facing Israel in 2018.

“According to figures released in December by the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency, security forces foiled no fewer than 400 significant planned terrorist attacks in 2017. These include 13 planned suicide bombings, 228 gun attacks, 50 bombings, eight kidnappings, and 94 vehicle and knife attacks. The Shin Bet was able to disrupt 148 Hamas terrorist cells that were operating in the West Bank in 2017 alone. Many of these attacks were planned by local Hamas cells, with the assistance and funding of Hamas’s headquarters in the Gaza Strip, and the newly established Hamas presence in Lebanon, which is under Hezbollah’s protection.”

3) Writing at the Algemeiner, Ben Cohen discusses the academic cited by Mahmoud Abbas in the recent speech that was grossly under-reported by the BBC.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s angry speech on Sunday castigating the US and Israel drew on the work of an Egyptian academic who dedicated his career to denying the existence of an independent Jewish people with political rights.

In his speech, Abbas described the late Egyptian academic Dr. Abdel Wahab Elmessiri as “one of the most important people that spoke about the Zionist and Jewish movement.”

On Israel, Abbas said, Elmessiri “described this entity with these words: ‘The significance of Israel’s functional character is that colonialism created it in order to fill a specific role; it is a colonialist project that is not connected to Judaism, but made use of the Jews so they would serve as pawns, and they were, under the motto ‘the Promised Land’ and ‘the Beloved Land,’ and they brought them here.’””

4) The Times of Israel’s David Horovitz addresses the significance of that speech by Abbas with regard to Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

“Unsurprisingly, Abbas made no mention of Olmert’s extraordinary peace proposal during his two-hour-plus anti-Israel, anti-Trump and anti-peace ramble before members of the PLO leadership in Ramallah on Sunday. Yet that appalling speech nonetheless provided the dismal explanation of why the man charged with leading his people to statehood had, nearly a decade earlier, rejected the best chance he would ever have to achieve that declared ambition.

Out of Abbas’s embittered 82-year-old mouth came the truth: He himself believes the vicious propaganda disseminated first by his late and unlamented predecessor Yasser Arafat and then maintained during his own 13 years at the helm of the Palestinian Authority.”

 

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BBC News report on UNRWA funding story omits relevant background

On January 16th the BBC News website published a report headlined “US holds back $65m aid to Palestinians” on its ‘US & Canada’ and ‘Middle East’ pages. Readers were told that:

“The US is withholding more than half of a $125m (£90m) instalment destined for the UN relief agency for the Palestinians, American officials say.

It will provide $60m in aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) but will hold back a further $65m. […]

The US funds almost 30% of the UN agency’s work overall and gave $370m to UNRWA last year. The money withheld is part of this year’s first instalment.”

Later on in the report more details on funding were provided under the sub-heading “How much aid does the US send to Palestinians?” – with the BBC finding it necessary to inform readers that:

“By contrast, Israel receives more than $3bn in military aid per year from the US.”

The BBC did not bother to clarify that the vast majority of that different kind of aid is conditioned on it being spent on American defence contractors.

Readers also found the following:

“”This is not aimed at punishing” anyone, state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters, adding that it was due to a US desire to see reforms at the agency.

The $65m is being withheld “for future consideration”, a US official told Reuters news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It is time other countries, some of them quite wealthy, step in and do their part to advance regional security and stability,” the official added.”

BBC Audiences were not told what such “reforms” might entail although, according to a report in Ha’aretz, Ms Nauert did clarify that point in her remarks.

‘”This is not aimed at punishing anyone,” Nauert said during her daily press briefing. “The United States Government and the Trump administration believe that there should be more so-called burden sharing to go around,” she added. 

According to Nauert’s explanation, “the United States has been, in the past, the largest single donor to UNRWA. We would like other countries – in fact, other countries that criticize the United States for what they believe to be our position vis-a-vis the Palestinians, other countries that have criticized us – to step forward and actually help with UNRWA, to do more.” Nauert compared the decision regarding UNRWA to the Trump administration’s push for members of NATO to increase their defense spending: “Just as we have with NATO, asking other countries to provide that 2 percent GDP into its defense, we are asking countries to do more as it pertains to UNRWA.”‘

Under the sub-heading “What is Israel’s position?” readers were told that:

“Its ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, called for aid to UNRWA to be scrapped completely.

He accused the agency of misusing humanitarian aid and supporting “anti-Israel propaganda”.

“It is time for this absurdity to end and for humanitarian funds to be directed towards their intended purpose – the welfare of refugees,” he said.”

According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, Mr Danon’s statement included additional points which the BBC apparently chose to edit out.

‘“UNRWA has proven time and again to be an agency that misuses the humanitarian aid of the international community and instead supports anti-Israel propaganda, perpetuates the plight of Palestinian refugees and encourages hate,” he said.  

“Just over the last year alone, UNRWA officials were elected to the leadership of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, UNRWA schools denied the existence of Israel, and terror tunnels were dug under UNRWA facilities.  It is time for this absurdity to end and for humanitarian funds to be directed toward their intended purpose – the welfare of refugees,” Danon added.’

As readers may recall, the BBC did not report on the UNRWA employees who were elected to the Hamas political bureau. Stories about Hamas tunnels dug underneath UNRWA schools have also been ignored – as have those concerning antisemitic incitement posted on social media by UNRWA employees and political campaigning by a senior official at UNRWA.

The BBC does not have an online profile for UNRWA but a profile of the United Nations published in 2011 gives descriptions of the two UN agencies dealing with refugees:

“UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – safeguards rights and well-being of refugees; based in Geneva

UN Works and Relief Agency (UNWRA) [sic] – dedicated agency providing assistance solely to Palestinian refugees and their descendants”

Readers of this article (and many previous BBC reports) were not provided with relevant background information such as the fact that UNRWA employs 30,000 members of staff to take care of 5.3 million registered clients while the UNHCR has fewer than 11,000 staff dealing with 17.2 million refugees in 130 countries. Audiences were not informed that the number of Palestinians classified as refugees by UNRWA rose from 750 thousand in 1950 to five million in 2013 due to that organisation’s unique policy of automatically awarding hereditary refugee status.  

Readers were not told why refugee camps still exist in areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas or why Palestinians with Jordanian citizenship are still classified as refugees. Neither were they informed of the fact that while the UNHCR is “mandated by its Statute and the UN General Assembly Resolutions to undertake resettlement” of refugees, no such mandate currently applies to UNRWA.

While that relevant background was withheld, the BBC’s article did amplify reactions from former UN official Jan Egeland and the PLO.

“The withdrawal of funds would, he [Egeland] said, have “devastating consequences for vulnerable Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, including hundreds of thousands of refugee children in the West Bank and Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria who depend on the agency for their education”.

It would also “deny their parents a social safety net that helps them to survive, and undermine the UN agency’s ability to respond in the event of another flare up in the conflict”.

The Palestine Liberation Organization, an umbrella group for Palestinian factions, tweeted that the Trump administration seemed to be following an Israeli policy of dismantling “the one agency that was established by the international community to protect the rights of the Palestinian refugees”.”

Obviously BBC audiences cannot reach informed opinions on this particular story so long as the BBC continues to refrain from providing them with the relevant background concerning the long-standing debate surrounding UNRWA that they have been denied for so many years.

Related Articles:

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part one

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part two

Unravelling years of BBC statistics on Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

BBC self-conscripts to UNRWA PR campaign

BBC World Service amplifies UNRWA’s political campaigning yet again

 

 

 

BBC censors parts of Mahmoud Abbas speech once again

An article that appeared on the BBC News website on January 14th under the headline “Jerusalem embassy: Abbas says Trump plan ‘slap of the century’” purports to inform audiences about a speech made by the Palestinian president and PLO chairman at a meeting of the PLO central council.

The BBC reported the content of Abbas’ speech as follows:

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has described US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace efforts as the “slap of the century”.

At a meeting of Palestinian leaders, he stressed he would not accept any peace plan from the US after it recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

He also accused Israel itself of putting an end to the 1994 Oslo Accords, which began the peace process. […]

Speaking to Palestinian faction leaders in Ramallah on Sunday, he said: “The deal of the century is the slap of the century and we will not accept it.”

“I am saying that Oslo, there is no Oslo,” he added. “Israel ended Oslo.””

Under the sub-heading “Did he say anything new?” readers were also told that:

“On Sunday, Mr Abbas suggested Palestinians were being offered the village of Abu Dis, outside Jerusalem, as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

“What would you want, if Jerusalem were to be lost?” he asked rhetorically, according to the Jerusalem Post. “Would you want to make a state with Abu Dis as its capital?””

However, that 162 word portrayal of the speech made by Abbas – which went on for more than two hours – omits parts of its content.

Ha’aretz reported that Abbas personally attacked US officials, saying:

“U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is a settler who is opposed to the term occupation. He is an offensive human being, and I will not agree to meet with him anywhere. They requested that I meet him and I refused, not in Jerusalem, not in Amman, not in Washington. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley too, she threatens to hit people who hurt Israel with the heel of her shoe, and we’ll respond in the same way.”

Abbas also promoted the following unoriginal smear:

“Israel has imported frightening amounts of drugs in order to destroy our younger generation.”

The Palestinian president expressed the intention to continue providing payments to convicted terrorists and their families.

“Prisoners and their family members are our sons, and we will continue to give them stipends.”

He also made false claims regarding Theodor Herzl:

“Abbas then turned to the United Kingdom, saying that “we continue to demand an apology from the British for the Balfour Declaration, and we will continue to demand their recognition of a Palestinian state.” He noted that “Herzl’s phrase ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’ was made up. He arrived here and saw a people, and for that reason, spoke of the need to get rid of the Palestinians.”” [emphasis added]

Abbas’ historical distortions continued:

“Abbas spoke for about two and half hours about how Jews were brought to Israel. He noted that England and the United States participated in the process of bringing Jews to Palestine after the Holocaust, seeking to solve the problem of having Jews without suffering the consequences.”

The New York Times adds:

“Testing his audience’s attention, Mr. Abbas also gave a lengthy history lecture reaching back to the 17th century, saying that Oliver Cromwell had first proposed shipping European Jews to the Holy Land, before tracing the beginning of Zionism to what he called the 19th-century journalist and activist Theodor Herzl’s efforts to “wipe out Palestinians from Palestine.”

This is a colonial enterprise that has nothing to do with Jewishness,” Mr. Abbas said. “The Jews were used as a tool under the concept of the promised land — call it whatever you want. Everything has been made up.”” [emphasis added]

There is of course nothing new about Abbas’ denial of Jewish history and his attempts to portray Israel as a European colonialist implant: such propaganda has been spread by the Palestinian Authority for years.

Unfortunately, there is also nothing novel about a BBC report on a speech made by the Palestinian president in which the parts of his remarks that do not fit the corporation’s chosen narrative are erased from audience view: only last month the BBC News website did the exact same when reporting on an address delivered by Abbas in Turkey.

Just as BBC audiences are never told about the ‘moderate’ Palestinian president’s personal role in the PA’s incitement to violence and glorification of terrorism or his refusal to recognise the Jewish state, they likewise do not hear anything about his longstanding denial of Jewish history and distortion of the origins of modern Israel.

Related Articles:

BBC reports the parts of Abbas’ OIC speech that fit its narrative

UK media airbrush Abbas’s anti-Jewish remarks from report on PLO conference (UK Media Watch)

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, an item (from 30:05 here) aired in the January 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ that purported to examine the question of “who would lose out the most if President Trump followed through on his threat to cut funding to the Palestinians?” opened with promotion of the views of the PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi and then went on to feature a fellow at a think-tank who has advocated for sanctions against Israel.

The third and final interviewee in the item did nothing to counter its homogeneous portrayal of the topic. Presenter Julian Marshall introduced him as follows:

Marshall: “And Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad is international spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party. So could the Palestinians really do without this American money?”

Abu Zayyad: “Well the thing is that when the Palestinian Authority was established it was the result of the Oslo Agreement and it came as a solution – a temporary solution – while the Israeli occupation continued. Now according to the international law the occupation power takes all the responsibility – all the services needed for the people and of course also security matters.”

Marshall: “So…so you are suggesting that if the United States cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Authority might find it very difficult to administer the Palestinian territories and that the onus should be on Israel to take over that administration or funding?”

Referring to a scheduled PLO meeting (reportedly themed “Jerusalem is the exclusive capital of Palestine”) Abu Zayyad replied:

Abu Zayyad: “Absolutely. The PA would collapse immediately and if the PA collapse then this would also affect our Central Council meeting that will be happening at the middle of this month and with the decision that it would take. The PA is a temporary authority and it functions according to the funding that is coming from the mediators. Now since the US is not a mediator anymore and now they’re trying to blackmail the Palestinian leadership by saying that they won’t give funding anymore, then absolutely the result would be the collapse of the PA and according to the international law – not our law – Israel would be responsible of all the matters and all the services that are needed.”

Abu Zayyad of course refrains from reminding listeners that when the Oslo Accords were signed and the Palestinian Authority created, foreign donor countries expected to see the PA engage in serious negotiations with Israel in order to bring an end to the conflict. He also appears to be able to ignore the dissonance in the fact that while the PA has chosen to loudly proclaim that the US no longer has a role as a mediator, he claims that mediators are committed to providing the PA with funding and objects to any cut in US aid.

Marshall: “But setting aside the instability that you say the collapse of the Palestinian Authority might create as a result of a loss of US funding, a recent poll has found that half of the Palestinians surveyed views the Palestinian Authority as a burden on the Palestinian people – that they would be quite happy to see it go.”

Abu Zayyad: “Well they won’t be happy. I mean listen, we have been…since 1965 we have been in a revolution calling for the freedom of the Palestinian people. Now if Israel is ready to come and take responsibility then let them come and take the keys and face the new situation they will face, which is that the will be ruling two million and a half Palestinians that will be calling for equality and human rights. Which means that Israel will have two choices – either to create an apartheid system by not giving the basic rights for the Palestinians that would be under their control or to include them as citizens in one state on all the historical land of Palestine which would by all means end the Zionist dream of having a Jewish state for the Jewish people.”

Refraining from clarifying to listeners that Abu Zayyad’s reference to 1965 – the year of Fatah’s founding – means that their “revolution” is against Israel itself rather than “the occupation”, Marshall went on:

Marshall: “You…you seem to be saying that this threat by President Trump could backfire on him.”

Abu Zayyad: “Absolutely. The biggest loser is Israel and I’m quoting from here the Shabak – which is the Israeli intelligence service – and the IDF – which is the Israeli defence army – saying that any miss with the money being paid for the budgets of the PA would explode the situation in the face of Israel and therefore they recommended several times for the Israeli prime minister Netanyahu not to do such a thing. The Palestinian leaders have made it clear – the president made it clear – that they are not here to sit and rule on nothing but they want a democratic and independent Palestinian state and if we can’t achieve it, so the institutions that came out as a result of Oslo, then we will be looking into other options. And all the options are on the table for us for this.”

Marshall: “Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad, international spokesman for the Palestinian Fatah party.”

As we see, listeners to this item heard three views in all – two from Palestinians and one from a think-tank fellow with a record of being less than neutral. No American or Israeli views were sought by the programme’s producers. Audiences were told that any cut in US aid to Palestinians would cause the Palestinian Authority to collapse with detrimental results for Israel, European and American interests and the Middle East peace process. They were twice told that the US president is ‘blackmailing’ the Palestinians.

Listeners did not however hear anything at all about Palestinian Authority corruption and misuse of donor funding – including for salaries for people who do not work and for the purpose of providing financial rewards for terrorists and their families. Neither did they hear even a word about the problematic aspects of UNRWA or the arguments (which have been discussed long before the US remarks concerning aid were made) for and against cutting its funding.

Clearly this item’s framing of the issue was narrow, superficial and monochrome and failed to provide audiences any views and information that would contradict the homogeneous chosen narrative on the story. 

Related Articles:

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part one

 

 

 

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part one

The December 6th US proclamation recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city made it very clear that nothing in that announcement was intended to define the boundaries of the city.

“Today’s actions—recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing the relocation of our embassy—do not reflect a departure from the strong commitment of the United States to facilitating a lasting peace agreement. The United States continues to take no position on any final status issues. The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties. The United States is not taking a position on boundaries or borders. Above all, our greatest hope is for peace, including through a two-state solution, if agreed to by both sides.”

That key part of the announcement has not been featured widely in BBC coverage of the story’s various chapters and indeed audiences have been led to believe that the US announcement somehow compromises or negates final status talks on Jerusalem.  

Despite the US statement having specifically clarified that it does not define boundaries or borders, presenter Julian Marshall introduced an item (from 30:05 here and billed as examining the question of “who would lose out the most if President Trump followed through on his threat to cut funding to the Palestinians?”) aired in the January 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ as follows:

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

Marshall: “And now, Jerusalem – or rather the way in which President Trump’s recognition of the entire city as Israel’s capital has poisoned Washington’s relations with the Palestinians. The December the 6th declaration led Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to say that the United States could no longer play any role in the Middle East peace process. This week President Trump threatened to cut off the more than $300 million in aid that the United States gives to the Palestinians because of what he said was their lack of gratitude and unwillingness to talk to Israel. But the Palestinians say they won’t be blackmailed and have reiterated their position that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Hanan Ashrawi is a senior Palestinian politician.”

Listeners were not told of the relevant fact that Hanan Ashrawi is also a member of the PLO executive committee and heads its department of culture and information.

Ashrawi: “They’re buying us in the same way as they threatened the rest of the world: if you vote against us we will stop assistance to you. Yes, the US has been paying hundreds of millions here and there, mainly spent on American [unintelligible] companies. But still, we can survive without American aid and there is no way in which we can accept or allow Trump to be…not just to be complicit in Israel’s illegal annexation of Jerusalem but to sabotage the basic requirements of an agreement that will have any claim to legitimacy and permanence.”

Marshall: “So if Mr Trump was to carry out his threat, how reliant are the Palestinians on US aid? Hugh Lovatt is a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations – a think tank – specialising on Israel and the Palestinian territories.”

That introduction obviously gives listeners the impression that they are about to hear from a neutral commentator but Hugh Lovatt has advocated for FIFA sanctions against Israeli football teams, has recommended that the EU support the compilation of a blacklist of “unlawful business activity related to settlements” and recognise “the State of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza based on the 1967 border” [sic] and believes that there are “moderates” within Hamas.

Lovatt: “So the US provides the Palestinians with about $700 million per year. That sum is split between UNRWA, which is the UN agency that provides relief and services to Palestinian refugees and about just under $400 million goes to that. And then the rest is actually sent to the Palestinian Authority based in Ramallah and then that…the majority of that goes to USAID projects which provide humanitarian and development works and activities and then a rather small amount of that, which is I think $36 million, is provided to train PA security forces.”

Marshall: “And what percentage of the overall international aid that the Palestinians receive is the American funding?”

Lovatt: “So it depends how you count it but it’s…I would say it’s probably just under about 30, 40%. But what I think is important to say is actually, the EU and its member states are equally large if not a slightly larger donor of aid to the Palestinian Authority and to UNRWA.”

Marshall: “And do you think that the European Union would make up any shortfall were the Americans to withdraw aid?”

Lovatt: “I think if you look at the short-term there would certainly be an effort within the EU to look at how the unit’s member states can buttress the PA budget which is currently running at a bit of a deficit. But, you know, given the vast amounts of US aid that we’re talking about, you know, over the mid to long-term it’s not imaginable that the EU could fully replace that sum of money.”

Marshall: “So the Palestinian Authority should be rather worried at the moment?”

Lovatt: “They should be but I think we should also be worried. I mean after all, there is a reason that we provide such vast amounts of aid to the Palestinians and it’s not just benevolence. It’s because it also suits our geo-political interests. So, you know, Europeans, Americans, it helps stabilise to a certain extent the Palestinian territories and it has been accused by Palestinians of fragmenting Palestinian civil society and mobilisation aimed at the occupation. It has also, you know, been credited rightly or wrongly with actually having laid the foundation for a Palestinian state. So I think if you take away this aid then it’s not just a Palestinian issue. It actually calls into question the whole basis for international engagement in the Middle East peace process.”

Marshall: “Hugh Lovatt from the European Council on Foreign Relations.”

If listeners were expecting to hear a view reflecting a different angle on the story at that point, they would have been disappointed – as we shall see in part two of this post.

 

BBC News reports one story about a PLO envoy, ignores another

On December 31st 2017 an article was published on the BBC News website’s main home page, its ‘World’ page and its ‘Middle East’ page under the headline “Palestinians recall envoy to US“. BBC audiences found just 46 words relating to that headline’s subject matter.

“The Palestinians have announced they are recalling their envoy to the United States for “consultations”, weeks after President Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. […]

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki was recalling the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) envoy Husam Zomlot, Palestinian news agency Wafa said.”

The rest of that 228 word article included a one-sided view of the US announcement:

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not accept any US peace plan in the wake of Mr Trump’s move.

Protests and clashes broke out in the Gaza Strip after the announcement.

A UN resolution calling on the US to cancel the decision was backed overwhelmingly by the General Assembly.

Thirteen Palestinians have died in violence since Mr Trump’s announcement, most killed in clashes with Israeli forces. […]

On Sunday Mr Abbas called Jerusalem the “eternal capital of the Palestinian people”.

The BBC did not inform readers that Abbas’ remark was made at a rally marking the anniversary of the founding of Fatah in 1965. 

In addition, audiences found the standard context-lite BBC background on Jerusalem:

“The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel occupied the east of the city, previously occupied by Jordan, in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks. […]

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and all countries currently maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. However, President Trump has told the US state department to start work on moving the US embassy.”

Although the PLO envoy’s recall was from the outset described as temporary, the very next day – January 1st 2018 – the BBC News website published another article relating to the same topic under the title “Trump’s Jerusalem move: Palestinian envoy sent back to Washington“.

“The Palestinian envoy to the United States says he is returning to Washington after just one day of “consultations” over President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Husam Zomlot said he met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas privately.

He was instructed to return to Washington “immediately”, he said. […]

In a Facebook post on Monday Mr Zomlot, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) envoy, said he would be returning to the US after spending time “with loved ones”. […]

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki said on Sunday that talks between Mr Zomlot and Mr Abbas were arranged to “set the decisions needed by the Palestinian leadership … regarding our relations with the US”.”

Readers again found one-sided presentation of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“On Sunday, Mr Abbas said he would not accept any US peace plan following Mr Trump’s announcement.

The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the US announcement on 6 December led to protests and clashes in the Gaza Strip.

A UN resolution calling on the US to cancel the decision was backed overwhelmingly by the General Assembly. […]

Thirteen Palestinians have died in violence since Mr Trump’s announcement over the US view of Jerusalem, most killed in clashes with Israeli forces.

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Mr Abbas has called Jerusalem the “eternal capital of the Palestinian people”.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and all countries currently maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. However, President Trump has told the US state department to start work on moving the US embassy.”

Husam Zomlot was however not the only PLO envoy to be recalled at the end of December. According to the PA’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the envoy to Pakistan was recalled following protest from India after he appeared at a rally on December 29th.  

“The Palestinians have withdrawn their envoy to Pakistan after he appeared at a rally with a radical cleric linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Palestinian envoy Walid Abu Ali shared the stage with Hafiz Saeed, the head of the hard-line Jamaat-ud-Dawa movement, at Friday’s rally, which was held to protest US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. […]

Jamaat-ud-Dawa is believed to be a front for Lashker-e-Taiba, a group that fights Indian troops in the disputed region of Kashmir, and which was blamed for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people, including Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg. […]

In a statement Saturday addressed to India, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the envoy’s participation “in the presence of individuals accused of supporting terrorism” was “an unintended mistake, but not justified.” It said the envoy has been recalled.

India had lodged a protest with the Palestinians earlier Saturday, calling the envoy’s association with Saeed “unacceptable.””

In contrast to the generous coverage of the temporary recall of the PLO envoy in Washington, visitors to the BBC News website did not find any reporting whatsoever on the story of the recall of the PLO envoy in Pakistan on either general or relevant regional pages.

Related Articles:

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BBC News changes its description of 2008 Mumbai terror attack

 

BBC Monitoring steers clear of key parts of the Jerusalem story

On December 7th the BBC News website published an article by BBC Monitoring under the less than objective title “Middle East media reacts to ‘slap of the century’” which opened by telling readers that:

“Headlines in Arab and Turkish newspapers are crowded with strident criticism and expressions of dismay in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Those in the Israeli press welcome the move, saying it should never have taken decades to happen.”

Since then, however, audiences have seen no further coverage of the Middle East media from the licence fee funded BBC department that pledges to help them “understand the world through its media”.

BBC audiences are therefore not aware of the fact that the last couple of weeks have seen a rise in the appearance of antisemitic cartoons in some Middle East media outlets – as the ADL reports.

“These cartoons describe President Trump as a circus elephant balancing the globe on its trunk to the command of its Israeli trainer; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulling the arm of a blindfolded US in order to raise a Star-of-David-shaped wand; and President Trump driving off a cliff in a car marked with a Star of David. They also depict the Israeli flag on top of an Uncle-Sam-style top hat; Uncle Sam throwing away his original hat only to reveal he is in fact wearing a Jewish skullcap; as well as the US saying that “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel” while the Jewish figure is giving it a thumbs-up, as though it was said on Israel’s cue.

These cartoons resonate with an age-old anti-Semitic theme of malevolent Jewish power found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabricated document purporting to show Jews scheming to achieve world domination.”

Although BBC Monitoring states that it provides “analysis of media and social media behaviour based on expert understanding of the local media and cultural context”, BBC audiences have heard nothing of a music video promoting suicide bombings and an antisemitic poem that have been broadcast on official Palestinian Authority TV. Neither have they been told of calls to the public from PA politicians in official PA media outlets to “stand against any attempt” to “Judaize” Jerusalem or of the repeated calls from Fatah (the dominant political party in the PA and PLO) for violence and rioting on its social media platforms. BBC Monitoring staff have apparently also not noticed the incitement against the US president on Fatah social media accounts.

As we saw earlier this week, BBC correspondents in the region are not making an effort to apprise audiences of the backdrop to the rioting on the streets that they are reporting. The fact that the BBC  is the only world media organisation to have such a large publicly funded department dedicated to translation and analysis of foreign language media means that it is ideally – and indeed uniquely – placed to fill that vacuum. BBC Monitoring is not, however, providing the corporation’s audiences with information which would help them put the story of the regional reaction to the US announcement on Jerusalem into perspective. 

BBC’s Knell skirts the issue of PA and Fatah incitement to violence

An edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘OS’ (formerly ‘Outside Source’) that was broadcast on December 15th led with an item (from 00:68 here) described by presenter Ben James as being about “the latest protests and clashes over Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital”.

During his subsequent conversation with the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell, James asked (at 02:53) an interesting question:

James: “And these protests; are they being organised by political parties? Are they spontaneous to an extent? What’s behind them?”

Anyone following the Palestinian media will be aware of numerous examples of incitement to rioting and violence that have appeared in both traditional and new media over the past couple of weeks. For example, PMW reports that:

“In anticipation of Trump’s statement, the Secretary of Fatah in Jerusalem Shadi Mattour explained that Fatah had already made plans for “escalating struggle activities” if US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, stating that there’s “nothing left but to return to confrontation”: 

Secretary of Fatah in Jerusalem Shadi Mattour: “The Fatah Movement has always led the defenders of our Palestinian people and will not hesitate when it sees the danger surrounding our Palestinian capital Jerusalem. Yesterday we were called to a meeting of branch secretaries in the presence of [Fatah] Commissioner Jamal Muhaisen, and prepared plans for escalating struggle activities on the ground if the US makes such a decision that will blow up the peace process… When the patron of peace [the US] comes and kills the peace process and kills our dream to establish our Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem, we in Fatah have nothing left but to return to confrontation with this occupation.” [Official PA TV, Palestine This Morning, Dec. 5, 2017]”

A PA official conveyed a similar message – also on official PA TV:

“In his Friday sermon at the PA headquarters, Abbas’ advisor on religious affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash incited Palestinians to religious war. Condemning US President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as “a crime against humanity” and “a sin,” Al-Habbash encouraged Muslims and Christians worldwide to “act.” He asked rhetorically: “How do the Muslims of the world allow this sin?” And answered later in the speech that “the Muslims will act.” “

On social media the PA president’s Fatah party has put out repeated calls for an intifada and “popular rage”.

‘”The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades at the Al-Fawwar refugee camp south of Hebron: ‘It is necessary to continue the intifada and escalate it, and to see days of popular rage in the coming days.'” [Facebook page of the Fatah Movement – Bethlehem Branch, Dec. 8, 2017]’

Obviously then, one would have expected Yolande Knell to inform BBC World Service audiences of such incitement from official PA sources as well as the dominant political party in both the Palestinian Authority and the PLO in her response to James’ question.

This, however, was her answer:

Knell: “I mean in most areas you have…err…young protesters who will, when there is…err…something like…err…an issue around Jerusalem, they will turn out to protest. Ahm…the Islamist group Hamas has called for an intifada – a Palestinian uprising – but I have to say so far that this has not been anything like on that level…”

This is by no means the first time that we have seen Yolande Knell – and other BBC journalists – downplaying, erasing, distorting and ignoring the issue of incitement to violence from official PA and Fatah sources. 

How that practice can be said to contribute to meeting the BBC’s public purpose of providing “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them” is of course a mystery. 

 

Comparing two BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ interviews – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the December 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ included an interview with the mayor of Jerusalem concerning a statement – which at the time had yet to be made – by the US president announcing recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

Later on in the same programme listeners heard another segment relating to the same topic which began (from 02: 10:16 here) with presenter John Humphrys telling audiences that:

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

Humphrys: “The world has grown used to Donald Trump making provocative comments since he became president of the United States – usually in his endless flow of late-night Tweets. What he’s planning to say today will not be in a spontaneous Tweet but in a scripted speech and it has the potential to change the course of the peace process in the Middle East – many say to bring it crashing down. He will announce that Washington will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

After listeners had heard a report from Jon Sopel, Humphrys introduced (at 02:14:56) his next interviewee. Not for the first time ‘Today’ listeners heard a presenter upgrade the title of the head of the “Palestinian Representative Office” (rather than embassy, because the UK has not recognised a Palestinian state) in London.

Humphrys: “Well I’ve been talking to Manuel Hassassian who is the Palestinian general delegate to this country. He’s effectively the Palestinian ambassador. What does he think of the speech?”

Hassassian: “If he says what he is intending to say about, you know, Jerusalem being the capital of Israel it means a kiss of death to the two-state solution. I think, you know, such a statement means a breach to the international conventions and to all UN Security Council resolutions concerning East Jerusalem as being, you know, an occupied city. I think it’s going to have big repercussions; not only in Palestine but it will be in the Arab and Islamic world. I think this could be the beginning of another compulsive violence that all parties need to avoid. I think, you know, this could be detrimental to the entire peace process. I think the United States will discredit himself as an honest broker of peace. I think by doing that it will show and portray to the entire world that the US is unequivocally supporting Israel and cannot really broker peace in the Middle East.”

Humphrys: “Presumably your leader Mahmoud Abbas has said all of this to Mr Trump.”

Hassassian: “Yes, he’s said that. He said that the repercussions will be very detrimental to the entire region. That it will create instability and insecurity again. It will put us back into the zero sum conflict. Violence will be inevitable and the end result is total chaos.”

Humphrys: “How did President Trump respond to Mr Abbas when he said that?”

Hassassian: “Basically he did not respond but he was trying to beat around the bush by explaining to him that we will give you this instead and that instead. You know; all gibberish talk that leads to nothing except to the escalation of tension and violence. At the time when the entire Middle East and the Palestinian, Israelis need a certain breakthrough in a re-engagement in negotiations, here he comes, you know, to start a whole new episode of confusion, anarchy, distortion to the concept of a two-state solution. And by, you know, announcing that, he’s declaring war in the Middle East. He’s declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims, hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept their holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel, let alone that East Jerusalem has always been known as, you know, the future capital of Palestine, let alone that it is under occupation.”

If listeners expected to hear Humphrys question Manuel Hassassian further on the interesting topic of what the Palestinians had been offered “instead”, they would have been disappointed.

Humphrys: “Well that’s very strong language; declaring war in the Middle East. What he says he’s doing is making the case that he’s settling the question of the American embassy and could actually hasten the peace process by removing a thorny political issue that recurs every six months.”

Hassassian: “If he seriously wants to bring the parties together he doesn’t start with a total violation in such a decision of moving the embassy. That is a total breach to the international conventions, let alone it is a breach basically to the arrangements and to the…to all the negotiations that we have been engaged with the Israelis about how East Jerusalem could be the capital of Palestine, West Jerusalem could be the capital of Israel. But by doing that he is preempting the entire process, you know, into a fait accompli and that in itself is going to have really a bad and violent reaction.”

Humphrys: “And you talk about declaring war and a violent reaction. What will actually happen? Because the Palestinians don’t have the wherewithal to [laughs] declare war on the United States of America, let alone in Israel.”

Hassasian: “What I mean by declaring war means that, you know, the Palestinians will go down to the streets and complain. And of course the entire Middle East will be on its feet because such a decision is going to be, you know, detrimental to the entire stability and security in the Middle East. Definitely this reaction is going to be different than any other reaction. Let us not forget what happened in the summer, you know, in Jerusalem when the Israelis tried to close down, I mean, the al Aqsa Mosque to the prayers and, you know, almost an intifada could have broke out. No, if we don’t take this issue seriously, what is left? I mean Jerusalem is the heart of the Palestinian state. If that is gone, what do we mean by a two-state solution when there is no geographic contiguity anymore? This is the last straw that will break the camel’s back. I don’t mean war in terms of conventional war. I mean war in terms of diplomacy. We are basically going to go to the international courts. We will do all our utmost diplomatically and politically to put pressures on the United States to rescind from such a decision because this would definitely kill the entire peace process and will take us back to square one where convulsive violence will be inevitable.”

Humphrys: “Manuel Hassassian – thank you very much for talking to us.”

That interview lasted five and a half minutes and as we see, Humphrys refrained from interrupting his interviewee at all (in contrast to the five interruptions in his earlier interview with Nir Barkat) and asked just four questions.

While Humphrys spent over 30% of the time allotted to the interview with Barkat speaking himself, in this interview he spoke for just 13% of the time, giving Hassassian an uninterrupted platform from which – inter alia – to disseminate a false account of the events in Jerusalem last July that followed the introduction of security measures after the terror attack near Temple Mount.

Equally revealing are the BBC’s subsequent actions concerning these two interviews. While nothing was done at all with the interview with the mayor of Jerusalem, an edited version of the interview with Hassassian was aired on the BBC World Service radio programme “The Newsroom” (from 00:05 here) on the same day (with Hassassian again upgraded to ‘ambassador’).

The BBC also chose to make a video version of part of the interview and that was promoted on the BBC News website under the headline “Jerusalem as capital is ‘declaring war'”. A link to that video, along with quotes from Hassassian, also appeared in a BBC News website article that was published on December 6th under the headline “Jerusalem: Trump recognition ‘kiss of death’ for peace“.

It is once again abundantly clear that even before the US president had made his announcement concerning Jerusalem, the BBC – including the ‘Today’ programme – had elected to frame the story for its audiences in line with the narrative promoted by the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.

Related Articles:

Comparing two BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ interviews – part one

 

Palestinian falsehoods on Christianity amplified by BBC’s Plett Usher

On December 7th the BBC News website published an article by Barbara Plett Usher on its ‘US & Canada’ page and the same article appeared on the website’s Middle East page as ‘related reading’.

Titled “Trumplomacy: Key takeaways from Jerusalem policy shift“, the article begins with a subheading informing readers that the US president has ruined Christmas for Palestinians:

“A blue Christmas for Palestinians”

Readers then discover that the first “key takeaway” proffered by Plett Usher is that the PLO has cancelled a party.

“Less than a month ago the Palestinians’ top diplomat in Washington was telling me he thought President Trump might succeed at peacemaking where others had failed.

In every meeting Trump confirmed he would “give his heart and soul” to this process, said Husam Zomlot, the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) representative.

It was an optimistic reading of a frequently rocky process. But there was enough in the efforts of Mr Trump’s peace envoys to give the Palestinians a sense that their relationship with the White House was on an upward trajectory.

Building off the momentum, Mr Zomlot organised a Christmas party on Capitol Hill with a guest list that included members of congress and government officials.

The idea was to live-stream Bethlehem Christmas celebrations into the political heart of America.

When the PLO mission got a late-breaking heads up about the decision on Jerusalem it cancelled the event, saying it would be unsuitable after an “announcement that runs counter to the message of peace”.”

Interestingly, the topic of recent PLO threats to freeze ties with the US – made weeks before the latest story concerning the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem broke – apparently did not come up during Plett Usher’s chats with Husam Zomlot.  

Erasing the fact that the US president had spoken to Mahmoud Abbas and other Arab leaders on the phone prior to his announcement concerning the US embassy and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Plett Usher continued:

“The fact that the Palestinians, and reportedly Arab leaders, were largely taken by surprise is only one sign that the decision was not part of a wider Middle East strategy.”

She went on:

“There’s been speculation that Mr Trump was trying to shake things up as a tactic to prepare the ground for peace talks.

But there’s far more evidence he was simply focused on keeping a campaign promise to pro-Israel American Jews and evangelical Christians in his political base.”

Under the sub-heading “It’s a Christian thing” Plett Usher then unquestioningly amplified historically illiterate Palestinian claims concerning Christianity. [emphasis added]

“The face of Mike Pence beaming over Mr Trump’s shoulder during the announcement said it all.

The vice-president was an influential voice in convincing Mr Trump to follow through on his campaign promise, and this illustrates the political power of hardline Christian evangelicals who fervently support Israel.

That was not lost on Palestinian legislator and Christian Hanan Ashrawi.

“My god did not tell me what his god tells him,” she spat out in an interview with the BBC.

We are the original Christians, we are the owners of the land, we are the people who’ve been here for centuries. How dare they come here and give me biblical treatises and absolutist positions!”

Incidentally, the enterprising Mr Zomlot tried to play the Christian card with his Bethlehem-themed Capitol Hill reception, and has told activists the motto “Jesus is a gift from Palestine” might help translate the Palestinian message to Christian America.”

Palestinian officials of course have a long record of falsifying history in order to negate Jewish connections to the region and the ‘Jesus was a Palestinian’ canard is just one of the themes used to promote that narrative, particularly at this time of year.

Does the BBC really believe that amplifying the blatant falsehoods of professional PLO propagandists such as Ashrawi and Zomlot contributes anything of value to its audiences’ understanding of this story?

Related Articles:

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