US Taylor Force Act not newsworthy for the BBC

Those getting their news from the BBC News website will not be aware that late last week the United States passed legislation relating to the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists and the families of terrorists.

“The Taylor Force Act, legislation that cuts American funding for the Palestinian Authority over its payments to convicted terrorists and their families, officially became a law on Friday evening, after President Donald Trump signed a large budget bill that the act was a part of. The PA protested the passage of the legislation, which is named after Taylor Force, an American citizen murdered in a terror attack in Tel Aviv two years ago.

The bill was first introduced by Republican lawmakers in March of last year. Over the last 12 months, it has gone through a modification process that produced wide bipartisan support for it. The final version that became part of the wider budget bill includes a number of exceptions for projects that will continue to receive American funding, such as hospitals in East Jerusalem, wastewater programs and child vaccination initiatives.

It should be noted that the legislation will not affect the budget that the United States provides to the Palestinian Authority’s security and intelligence forces, which is separate from funding that goes toward dealing with civilian issues within the PA. […]

In a statement it [the White House] said that it “commends the Congress for including the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits most U.S. foreign assistance that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority (PA) until the PA ends the abhorrent practice of providing payments to terrorists and their families in reward for acts of violence.””

Visitors to the BBC News website have to date not seen any reporting on that topic either on the US or Middle East pages. Even the predictable reaction from BBC regular Husam Zomlot did not receive any coverage.

“The PLO excoriated Congress on Friday for passing the Taylor Force Act, a law that threatens to freeze State Department funds to the Palestinian Authority unless it ends its longstanding practice of compensating terrorists and the families of terrorists convicted in Israeli courts.

The PLO envoy to Washington, Husam Zomlot, dismissed the effort as politically motivated. The pressure “does not work, and severely damages the prospects for peace in the Middle East,” he said. […]

The bill, Zomlot said, “punishes” the PA, “which is the only agency committed to peace and nonviolence, and undermines the American-Palestinian bilateral relationship and decades of US investments in the two-state solution.

“The Taylor Force Act represents the most recent effort in this 30-year-old trend of legislations that deliberately targets the Palestinian people,” Zomlot continued, accusing the US Congress of “flagrant bias.””

As regular readers know, the subject of the PA’s payment of salaries to terrorists is one that the BBC more often than not chooses to avoid, despite its relevance to members of the public in the many countries which donate aid to the Palestinian Authority – including of course Britain. Although familiarity with this issue is also key to BBC audience understanding of both the eternal PA budget deficit and the background to Palestinian terrorism, as we see the corporation continues to under-report the topic.  

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BBC News ignores Gaza humanitarian conference

For over ten years the BBC has been reporting on “Gaza’s humanitarian crisis” and for over five years it has been telling its audiences that the Gaza Strip will soon become “unlivable”.

BBC audiences would therefore have expected to see some coverage of a meeting designed to address the topic of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip that included representatives from eight Middle East countries.

In a March 8th op-ed in the Washington Post the US special representative Jason Greenblatt wrote:

“In response to the burgeoning humanitarian situation in Gaza, key countries and stakeholders are preparing to act: There was a meeting in Cairo on Thursday, and there will be a brainstorming session at the White House next week to find real solutions to the problems that Hamas has caused. […]

The humanitarian disaster caused by Hamas’s exploitation of the Palestinians of Gaza demands that we focus immediately on basics such as power, sanitation and drinking water. Gaza is not without resources, however, and has significant opportunities to build prosperous energy sectors in natural gas and solar. Our Gaza conference in Washington will focus on ideas for how to develop, over time, a viable economy in Gaza.”

Two days later the Palestinian Authority announced that it would not attend that conference in Washington.

“The Palestinian Authority has turned down an invitation from the Trump administration to participate in a meeting at the White House later this week on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, a Palestinian official said Saturday.

Speaking with the Voice of Palestine radio, PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani accused the US of trying to undermine the Palestinian Authority and said there was no need for a meeting because Gaza “is a political issue and not a humanitarian one.”

“The United States knows very well that the cause of the tragedy of the Gaza Strip is the unjust Israeli siege, and what is needed is political treatment of this issue,” he claimed.

Majdalani, who also serves as an adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told Voice of Palestine that the White House meeting on the Palestinian coastal enclave “does not come in a vacuum” and is part of Washington’s broader effort to further isolate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and “liquidate the Palestinian national project” altogether.”

The meeting nevertheless went ahead on March 13th.

“The summit featured an unusual meetup of representatives from Israel and Arab nations with which the Jewish state does not have formal relations.

Jerusalem was represented by the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai. Also present were envoys for Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and — notably — Qatar, which has close ties to Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

Egyptian and Jordanian officials were in attendance as well. […]

While officials would not detail with any specificity the proposals that were deliberated upon, they said they were aimed at electricity, water, sewage and health issues.”

Remarkably, the BBC did not find that meeting – or the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to participate in it – at all newsworthy. 

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What do BBC audiences know about the Coastal Road Massacre?

Next week will mark forty years since the Coastal Road Massacre took place on March 11th 1978. Thirty-eight people – including thirteen children – were murdered and seventy-one wounded in that Fatah perpetrated attack, making it the single most deadly terrorist attack carried out in Israel.

Coastal Road Massacre memorial

“During the Jewish Sabbath, March 11, 1978, twelve members of a Palestinian terrorist cell led by female terrorist Dalal Mughrabi landed on a beach near Ma’agan Michael, north of Tel Aviv, having departed from Lebanon with a stash of Kalashnikov rifles, RPG light mortars and high explosives. They walked less than a mile up to the four-lane highway, where they began a murderous rampage, opening fire at passing vehicles before hijacking a bus en route to Haifa. They murdered American photo-journalist Gail Rubin, who was taking nature photographs nearby.

The terrorists continued to fire and throw grenades at passing cars, while shooting at the passengers, and dumping at least one body out of the bus. At one point they commandeered another bus, and forced the passengers from the first bus to board the second one.

The bus was finally stopped by a police roadblock.”

Prompted by that attack and previous ones perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists based in Lebanon, Israel launched Operation Litani days later.

Members of the BBC’s funding public searching online for reports produced by their national broadcaster relating to the terror attack that prompted Operation Litani (and later led to the establishment of the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon) will, however, find very little information indeed.

No archive coverage of the Coastal Road Massacre is currently available at all and the sole references to that attack appear in reports relating to the subsequent Israeli operation in Lebanon.

A BBC report titled “Civilians flee southern Lebanon” dated March 17th 1978 states in its eleventh paragraph:

“Israel launched an offensive in southern Lebanon in retaliation for the 11 March bus hijacking in Tel Aviv in which 35 people were killed and 100 others were injured. […]

 Israel accuses Palestinian fighters of using southern Lebanon to mount intermittent cross-border attacks against civilian and military targets in Israel.”

A report from June 13th 1978 – “Israeli troops leave southern Lebanon” – tells readers that:

“Operation Litani, Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon, was launched following a Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) attack on the Tel Aviv-Haifa road which killed 37 people.

PLO troops were using southern Lebanon as a staging area for their attacks and Israeli forces moved in to destroy their bases.”

Included in the BBC’s ‘Palestinian Territories profile’ is the following:

“1978 March – PLO attack kills 38 civilians on Israel’s coastal road. Israel carries out first major incursion into southern Lebanon, driving PLO and other Palestinian groups out of the area.”

The BBC’s ‘Lebanon profile’ describes the same events as follows:

“1978 – In reprisal for a Palestinian attack, Israel launches a major invasion of southern Lebanon. It withdraws from all but a narrow border strip, which it hands over not to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) but to its proxy South Lebanon Army mainly Christian militia.”

Curiously, in the BBC’s ‘Israel profile’ there is no entry at all for 1978.

Some of the BBC’s coverage of the 2006 Second Lebanon War includes a timeline headed “Israel in Lebanon” in which the first entry reads: “March 1978: Israel invades to stop Palestinian attacks”.

As we see, in the little reporting that there is, the BBC uniformly describes the Coastal Road Massacre as having been carried out by the PLO – failing to specify that the terrorists belonged to the PLO’s Fatah faction.

It is hence perhaps unsurprising that the regular glorification of the Coastal Road Massacre, its perpetrators and planners by both the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party goes unreported by the BBC. As the ITIC notes in an extensive study of that topic:

“The PA and Fatah have commemorated Dalal al-Mughrabi every year since the days of Yasser Arafat. Events are usually held on or about March 11, the day of the Coastal Road Massacre, sometimes on other days. The official events are attended by senior PA and Fatah movement figures and the Palestinian media gives them extensive coverage.”

In a recent glorification video produced by Fatah, the victims of the attack – including children – were said to be ‘soldiers’.

The sole BBC reference to Palestinian glorification of the Coastal Road Massacre terrorists to be currently found online dates from 2003 when Lyse Doucet hosted a phone-in discussion with the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen after the broadcast of a film he made titled “Arafat Investigated”. The transcript of that discussion includes the following:

Lyse Doucet: “There was a sequence in the film where you had Yasser Arafat praising Dalal al Mughrabi as the road to freedom and yet this Palestinian woman was, according to the film, in 1978 responsible for one of the worst terrorist incidents in Israeli history, killing nearly 40 people and injuring many others. Well, Ruth Green, Neil Solden, among many others, have asked you: Arafat is publicly praising the terrorists, how can he be a man of peace and still do that?”

The BBC Middle East editor’s response perhaps casts light on the BBC’s chronic under-reporting of the issue of Palestinian glorification of terrorism. 

Jeremy Bowen: “Well, lots of Israelis say that and of course the Israeli Government has concluded that Arafat has been a terrorist his entire life and he is not a man of peace. In the Oslo process the feeling was that the man had changed. Now, I don’t know whether he has changed fully or not but I think that the point made in the film by Eyad Sarraj, the Palestinian we talked to in that, is important in so far as what he said was that these people are seen by Palestinians as heroes of their would-be independence movement, and it’s important for them to be mentioned and it fulfils their ritualistic sloganising function. Let’s not forget that before Israeli independence Messrs Shamir and Begin were regarded by the British as terrorists. They went on – in the case of Begin – to win the Nobel Prize for Peace.”

For years the BBC has promoted the notion that the prime factor preventing peace from coming to the Middle East is Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and specific areas of Jerusalem. More recently another factor was added to the BBC’s list of ‘things preventing peace’: the US administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

However, remarkably little has been done to inform BBC audiences of issues that detract from that trite narrative such as the Palestinian Authority’s payments to convicted terrorists, PA and Fatah incitement or PA and Fatah glorification of terrorism of the type seen annually around the anniversary of the most lethal terror attack on Israeli civilians.

That is not omission – it is editorial policy.

Another BBC makeover on a speech by Mahmoud Abbas

On February 20th the BBC News website published a report titled “Palestinian head Abbas calls for international peace summit” on its Middle East page. The BBC’s account of Abbas’ long speech at the UN Security Council on the same day is as follows:

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called for an international peace conference to tackle the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

In a rare address to the UN Security Council, he said the situation was “no longer bearable” for Palestinians. […]

Mr Abbas told the Security Council that “to solve the Palestine question… it is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism”.

He blamed the deadlock in the peace process on the US declaration on Jerusalem, which he said violated international law, and on what he called Israel’s “illegal activities” in the occupied territories.

“We call for the convening of an international peace conference by mid-2018 based on international law and the relevant UN resolutions,” he said.”

As has been the case on previous occasions (see here and here), the BBC’s account did not include the parts of Abbas’ speech that do not fit its chosen narrative. BBC audiences therefore remain unaware of the fact that, as he has done in the past, Abbas alleged in this – for him – relatively restrained address that the Palestinians:

“…are the descendants of the Canaanites that lived in the land of Palestine 5,000 years ago and continuously remained there to this day.” 

The BBC also omitted from its account Abbas’ claim that “[t]he Palestinian people built their own cities and homeland and made contributions to humanity and civilization witnessed by the world” and that he negated Jewish history in the region by stating:

“All of this existed before and after the Balfour Declaration issued by the British Government in 1917, a declaration by which those who did not own, giving to those who had no right.”

Abbas also asserted that:

“Our national institutions are recognized by international organizations for their merit and work, which is based on the rule of law, accountability and transparency, and empowerment of women and youth in an environment of tolerance, coexistence of civilizations and nondiscrimination.”

Like Abbas, the BBC rarely addresses issues such as Palestinian Authority corruption or social issues within Palestinian society.

Abbas professed that the Palestinians are “opposed to conventional weapons”, are “committed to fostering a culture of peace, rejection of violence”. The BBC has consistently ignored Abbas’ own incitement to violence and that coming from his party and administration. The issue of payments to terrorists and their families has not received any meaningful BBC coverage.

Abbas also claimed that the Palestinians have “persisted in our efforts to attain peace” while alleging that the failure of past peace efforts is exclusively the result of “the Israeli Government’s intransigence”. He of course refrained from mentioning Arab rejection of the 1947 Partition Plan, the decades of Palestinian terrorism against Jews and Israelis or the fact that a significant number of Palestinian factions reject the existence of Israel in any form whatsoever. 

Abbas used the ‘apartheid’ smear against Israel and advanced the false notion of “the 1967 borders”. While on the one hand citing “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force”, he described areas of Jerusalem occupied by Jordan in 1948 as “our capital” and “part of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967”.

In short, the BBC’s presentation of Abbas’ remarks is once again framed in a manner that excludes from audience view anything which may undermine or conflict with the narrative of a peace-seeking Palestinian Authority that the corporation long since elected to promote.

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BBC News continues to entrench a narrative by means of omission

As was noted here previously, in BBC News website coverage of the murder of Rabbi Raziel Shevach in a terror attack near Havat Gilad on January 9th audiences were twice told that “Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad praised the attackers” but were not informed that the Palestinian Authority president’s party, Fatah, also lauded the attack.

Nine days after the attack the security forces tried to arrest the suspected perpetrators in Jenin. One member of the cell escaped, one was apprehended and one killed after they opened fire on the soldiers. The BBC did not produce any reporting on that incident.

Unsurprisingly, BBC audiences also remain unaware of the fact that senior Fatah figures and Palestinian Authority officials subsequently visited the Hamas-affiliated family of the dead terrorist to offer condolences.

“On January 22, 2018, three senior Fatah figures paid a condolence call at the mourning tent erected by the family of Ahmed Isma’il Muhammad Jarar […]. They were Mahmoud al-‘Alul, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee and deputy Fatah chairman; Jamal Muheisen, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee and in charge of the bureau of mobilization and organization; and Dalal Salameh, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee. […]

Before the visit of the senior Fatah figures, Ibrahim Ramadan, the governor of the Jenin district, came to offer his condolences. He was accompanied by several commanders of the PA security forces. He also gave the family the condolences of Mahmoud Abbas.”

The public purposes laid out in the BBC’s Royal Charter oblige it (inter alia) to:

“… provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them: the BBC should provide duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of all parts of the United Kingdom and of the wider world. Its content should be provided to the highest editorial standards. It should offer a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers, using the highest calibre presenters and journalists, and championing freedom of expression, so that all audiences can engage fully with major local, regional, national, United Kingdom and global issues and participate in the democratic process, at all levels, as active and informed citizens.” [emphasis in the original]

However, for years the BBC has hindered rather than built its funding public’s understanding of and ability to engage in an informed manner with the topic of the Arab-Israeli conflict – and in particular, the ‘peace process’ – by serially avoiding stories relating to the Palestinian Authority and its leadership which do not fit the BBC’s chosen narrative on the topic.

This past month alone we have seen the corporation heavily censor a speech given by the PA president (and reject a subsequent complaint on the topic), fail to report decisions taken at an important meeting of the PLO, refrain from reporting on another history distorting speech made by Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo and – as we see above – ignore Fatah and the PA’s lauding of terrorism.

The result is that audience understanding – and consequently views – are being shaped by omission.

Related Articles:

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BBC claims Abbas’ historical distortions and smears not ‘relevant’

Two weeks ago we noted that the BBC’s report on a long speech given by Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting of the PLO’s Central Council made no mention whatsoever of the assorted distortions of history, anti-Israel smears and renewed commitment to rewarding terrorism that made up a significant proportion of the Palestinian president’s address.

A member of the public who wrote to the BBC to complain about those omissions received the following reply:

“Thank you for getting in touch about our report on Mahmoud Abbas’s comments following the announcement of US plans for an embassy in Jerusalem.

He gave a two-hour speech and we have selected what we believe to be the relevant sections as far as the topic in hand is concerned.

We don’t believe the rest of Mr Abbas’s comments are relevant, or reveal anything that was not previously known – our report contains a section entitled “Did he say anything new?”.

Out of his full speech, you have made a selection of comments that you felt were of note – we believe we have carried the most newsworthy and there will be many more from such a long presentation that will not get reported.” [emphasis added]

Apparently we can therefore conclude that the BBC does not consider it relevant that the Palestinian leader it frequently touts as a ‘moderate’ denied the Jewish people’s historical and religious links to the region and portrayed modern Israel as a Western colonialist endeavour.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday night implied European Jews during the Holocaust chose to undergo “murder and slaughter” over emigration to British-held Palestine, and alleged that the State of Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion imported Jews from Yemen and Iraq to the country against their will.

The Palestinian leader further asserted that the State of Israel was formed as “a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism” to safeguard European interests.”

Obviously the BBC does not believe that – even at a time when the topic of foreign donations to the Palestinians is in the news – its audiences needed to know that Abbas pledged to continue the PA’s policy of making payments to convicted terrorists – a subject that it serially under-reports.

“There is an important matter, and it is the issue of the payments to [the families of] the martyrs, to the families of the martyrs and the prisoners. We steadfastly refuse to stop these payments, and we will not allow anyone to infringe on the payments to the families of the martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners. They are our sons, and we will keep paying them money.”

As David Horovitz aptly put it at the time:

“The man whose doctoral thesis blamed Zionist agitation for the Holocaust, and disputed the number of Jewish victims, on Sunday set out a series of falsehoods obvious to the most casual student of 20th century events. He detailed a narrative that allowed no historic Jewish connection to this land — no Biblical history, no Temples, no ancient sovereignty. He airbrushed the Jewish nation out of its own past.

Obviously, no leader so determinedly blinded to his enemy’s legitimacy could ever have agreed to reconciliation. Abbas’s public excuse for rejecting Olmert’s statehood offer in 2008 may have been “He didn’t give me a map.” What plainly motivated his rejection, however, was his insistent conviction that the Jews have no right to be here whatsoever.”

While the BBC may claim that the Palestinian president did not “say anything new”, the fact is that his refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state, his denial of Jewish history, his false allegations against Israel and his incitement and glorification of terrorism is new to BBC audiences because the corporation repeatedly censors such statements from its coverage. Even the BBC’s profile of Abbas gives more space to his own denial of charges concerning his book titled “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement” than it does to explaining the criticisms leveled at it.

The bottom line is of course that this response from BBC Complaints further shows that the corporation will not report statements made by Abbas or any other Palestinian Authority official that would open audiences’ eyes to factors beyond the narrative it has chosen to promote regarding the ‘reasons’ for the failure of the so-called peace process to yield results.

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No BBC English language reporting on a PLO decision

After the BBC News website’s publication of an article on January 14th in which parts of a speech made by the PA president Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting of the heads of the PLO were heavily censored, the BBC’s English-speaking audiences saw no further reporting from that two-day event and hence remain unaware of the decisions taken by the Palestinian Central Council.

“Palestinian leaders voted on Monday to call for the suspension of recognition of Israel, and to suspend security coordination with Israel, as they met in response to US President Donald Trump’s acknowledgement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The vote ordered the Palestine Liberation Organisation to suspend its recognition of the Jewish state until Israel “recognizes the state of Palestine,” cancels its annexation of East Jerusalem, and stops settlement activity, a statement said.

It was unclear if the vote by the Palestinian Central Council, a high-ranking arm of the PLO, was binding, and a final decision is likely to rest with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. A previous vote by the council in 2015 to suspend security coordination with Israel was never implemented.”

Interestingly, although the BBC apparently did not find that story newsworthy enough to report to its English-speaking audiences, visitors to the BBC Arabic website on January 16th did find a lengthy Arabic language article on the subject. 

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Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part two

In part one of this post we saw how Mustafa Barghouti was given an unchallenged platform on two editions of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newsday‘ from which to promote anti-Israel propaganda and falsehoods while supposedly discussing the US administration’s withholding of donations to UNRWA.

In a later edition of that same programme – presented by Lawrence Pollard and Shaimaa Khalil – listeners heard from Dr Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank before Mustafa Barghouti was brought in (from 05:02 here) for yet another interview. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Pollard: “Well let’s speak now to Mustafa Barghouti who is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council which was the parliament of the occupied territories. Welcome back to the programme, sir. Very briefly, what will the effect of this move be?”

Barghouti: “Well this is another irresponsible, reckless and harmful decision of President Trump. It represents an act of collective punishment against the victims of Israeli ethnic cleansing that took place in 1948. It’s a collective punishment against millions of Palestinian refugees and it will affect their humanitarian needs. This means that hundreds of thousands of children will not be able to go to school. This means that hundreds of thousands of people will not be able to receive healthcare. It means that hundreds of thousands of elderly people and disabled will be deprived from humanitarian support and it is a political act. It is clearly a political act from the side of the president of the United States…”

Pollard: “Sure.”

Barghouti: “…who is complicit in Israeli policies to liquidate the rights of Palestinian refugees to come home to the place they were displaced from which is an international United Nations resolution.”

The resolution to which Barghouti refers is of course UNGA resolution 194 which is non-binding but Pollard failed to clarify that fact to listeners just as he avoided informing them that there is no factual basis to Barghouti’s egregious claims of “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians by Israel.

Pollard: “As I understand it there is now going to be a shortfall in the budget but it’s not an immediate cessation of the budget so there is time for other countries to step forward. Don’t you think that there are plenty of countries that are going to be more than happy to embarrass – as they would see it – Donald Trump and step up and pay? So the real effect – I mean you’re talking about the effect as if the money disappeared now – but the real effect on the ground might not be so bad in practice.”

Barghouti: “Not really because UNRWA itself is already suffering from a deficit that happens every year because during the last few years UNRWA is not getting sufficient support to run all the services.”

Pollard: “OK that’s…I’m really sorry to interrupt you but you just heard our previous talker saying that was because of poor administration. You would reject that?”

Barghouti: “It’s not true. It’s not true. The poor administration lies in the fact that the United States is giving $4 billion [sic] to Israel for building a huge army and building nuclear power. The bad administration and bad planning relates to United States USAID agency which is actually spreading corruption in many countries instead of doing development. And if Mr Trump wants to reform, he should start with his own. He should start with reforming USAID agency before attacking a United Nations agency that is providing very basic humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people.”

Making no effort to correct Barghouti’s inaccurate claims regarding US military aid to Israel, Pollard went on:

Pollard: “OK, that’s an interesting distinction. Can I ask; in the background – I think most people agree – is not…I mean, you know, the main issue is not a complaint about administration of aid; it’s a bigger political story. It’s intended to drive the Palestinians – as Mr Trump would say – back to the talking table. From the comments for example of Mahmoud Abbas, there’s no chance of that happening. Would you agree with Abbas?”

Barghouti: “No, Mr Abbas didn’t say that. Mr Abbas said we never left the table of negotiations but it is Israel that is refusing to negotiate. And Mr Abbas said that President Trump has taken off the table the issue of Jerusalem, the issue of refugees, the issue of settlements and wants us to come to an empty table. How can we negotiate when Mr Trump and Netanyahu, with whom he is complicit, are removing all issues of negotiations and deciding the outcome before negotiations start?”

Pollard: “Mmm.”

Barghouti: “The problem is that there is an Israeli military occupation that has become the longest in modern history for 50 years and a problem of refugees who were displaced by ethnic cleansing since 70 years by Israel. That is the problem and you cannot have peace unless those issues are resolved and unless Palestinians are given the right to be living in peace and equality to everybody else.”

Pollard: “Right and can I ask in your opinion – because we’ve heard pretty dire warnings from inside the UN agencies themselves – about how this will increase extremism, anger and so on. Do you think that is the effect that you will see? You were mentioning the practical effect on the ground in terms of clinics and schools but in terms of mentality, in terms of attitudes, what effect will this have?”

Barghouti: “This is…this is seriously dis…this is an act that is seriously going to affect the stability in the region for sure. This is going to affect people in Jordan, in Lebanon, in Syria – which is suffering a lot already – and of course it will be destabilising but more important, it eliminates any ability of the United States administration to play a positive, constructive role in any future peace process.”

Pollard: “And just at the time that we’re expecting their latest peace proposals. Mustafa Barghouti – many thanks indeed – a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.”

As we see, listeners to ‘Newsday’ on January 17th heard very generous coverage of the “top story” concerning the US decision to withhold part of its donations to UNRWA. The majority of the opinions heard, however, were strongly critical of the decision and the sole exception was in the contributions from Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

05:06 edition: Jan Egeland (Norwegian Refugee Council), Chris Gunness (UNRWA)

06:06 edition: Antonio Guterres (UN), Mustafa Barghouti (PLC, PLO)

07:06 edition: Mustafa Barghouti (PLC, PLO), Jonathan Schanzer (FDD)

08:06 edition: Mustafa Barghouti (PLC, PLO), Jonathan Schanzer (FDD)

09:06 edition: Jonathan Schanzer (FDD), Chris Gunness (UNRWA)

10:06 edition: Chris Gunness (UNRWA)

Obviously that imbalance in itself compromises the BBC’s claim to produce impartial reporting “reflecting a breadth and diversity of opinion“. Moreover, listeners heard numerous inaccurate and misleading claims from both Gunness and Barghouti that presenters made no attempt whatsoever to challenge or correct. No attempt was made to raise any of the serious issues surrounding UNRWA’s functioning and agenda despite their clear relevance to the story. Barghouti was not asked about the Palestinian Authority’s own prioritisation of payments to convicted terrorists over schools and healthcare for people registered as refugees but living under its control even though Schanzer did raise that issue. And of course not only were Barghouti’s repeated falsehoods concerning Israel allowed to stand unquestioned but no right of reply was given to enable rebuttal of those propaganda smears.

Related Articles:

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part one

BACKGROUNDER: The Palestinian Claim to a “Right of Return”  (CAMERA)

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part one

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part two

BBC News report on UNRWA funding story omits relevant background

 

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.”

 

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