Superficial BBC portrayal of proposed ‘Regulation Bill’

On the morning of December 6th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article titled “Israel advances bill to legalise West Bank settlements”. Around five hours later the article was completely re-written and the headline changed to read “Israeli MPs advance bill to legalise West Bank outposts”.

As long as a decade ago, the BBC’s ‘style guide’ alerted the corporation’s journalists to the difference between ‘settlements’ and ‘outposts’.

“Outposts

Be careful that you don’t mean settlements. They are very different.

Outposts are usually little more than a few caravans occupying a hilltop. They serve a dual purpose: firstly to create new facts on the ground and expand the land included in the adjoining settlement; secondly to defy the Israeli government and show the strength of the settler movement.

Some of these outposts are called ‘unauthorised outposts’ by the Israeli government – generally meaning no permission was granted for them. You can describe an outpost as unauthorised by the Israeli government if that is accurate and relevant to the specific case you are considering.”

The current version of the BBC’s article informs audiences that:

Version 2

Version 2

“Israeli MPs have given preliminary backing to a controversial bill to legalise thousands of unauthorised Jewish homes in the West Bank. […]

The bill, which would legitimise about 4,000 settler homes, still needs to pass three readings in Israel’s parliament to become law.”

BBC audiences are not told that the Attorney General has voiced his opposition to the bill or – as the Times of Israel explains in a useful backgrounder – that:

“Even if the bill makes it through the first, second and third readings, many analysts believe that the Supreme Court will eventually rule that the law is unconstitutional.”

Readers are provided with the usual partial and blinkered BBC mantra concerning ‘international law’, together with uncritical amplification of PLO demands.

“The international community regards all settlements as illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Palestinians see settlements as a major obstacle to a peace deal with Israel.

They want all settlements and outposts to be removed from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which they seek for a future Palestinian state.”

No effort is made to inform BBC audiences of the details of the bill.

“The bill — if it passes three more readings in the Knesset and is not subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court — would legalize housing units built by settlers on private Palestinian land, if the construction was carried out in good faith: If the settlers did not know that the land they were building on was privately owned by Palestinians, and received some kind of assistance from the state, they would be allowed to remain there. […]

The bill, sponsored by Jewish Home MKs Betzalel Smotrich and Shuli Moalem-Refaeli and Likud MKs David Bitan and Yoav Kisch, allows the government to appropriate land for its own use if the owners are unknown. If the owners are known, they will be eligible for yearly damages amounting to 125 percent of the value of leasing the land or a larger financial package valued at 20 years’ worth of leasing the plots, or alternate plots.”

Neither are readers given any insight into the political background to the bill in this highly superficial report which does little to enhance audience understanding of the issue.

A new backgrounder on a topic disregarded by the BBC

On November 13th the Wall Street Journal published an editorial concerning an issue serially absent from BBC coverage. Titled “Ending Aid to Terrorists“, the article opens:

“In his eulogy recently for Israeli statesman Shimon Peres, President Obama spoke of the “unfinished business” of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Now he or Donald Trump have an opportunity to advance the cause—by backing legislation to stop the flow of U.S. tax dollars to Palestinian terrorists.

Since the 1990s, as the U.S. and other countries have sent billions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, Palestinian leaders have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in rewards to those who carry out bombings, stabbings and other attacks in Israel. These payments, codified in Palestinian law, are an official incentive program for murder that in any other context would be recognized as state sponsorship of terror. But the U.S. and other Western states have looked the other way while continuing to send aid, giving Palestinian leaders no incentive to stop.

Senators Lindsey Graham,Dan Coats and Roy Blunt have introduced a bill to end U.S. economic aid unless Palestinian leaders stop rewarding terrorists. It’s called the Taylor Force Act, after the 28-year-old U.S. Army veteran stabbed to death in March by a Palestinian in the Israeli city of Jaffa. Other American victims of recent Palestinian terrorism include 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel and 18-year-old Ezra Schwartz.”

The JCPA recently produced a backgrounder concerning the PA’s allocation of benefits to terrorists and their families which includes much useful information.cash-3

“Official legislation of the Palestinian Authority places all Palestinians (including Israeli Arabs) imprisoned in Israel for terror crimes on the PA payroll to receive a monthly salary from the PA. The legislation defines “prisoners” benefiting from this requirement, as “Anyone imprisoned in the occupation’s prisons as a result of his participation in the struggle against the occupation.”  The PA also pays by law monthly allocations to the families of Palestinians who lost their lives in the context of this struggle (referred to as “Martyrs”), including those who were involved in carrying out terror attacks.

While ordinary prisoners, such as car thieves, do not receive a salary, every person committing acts of terror is on the PA payroll. The salary goes directly to the terrorist or the terrorist’s family, and prisoners receive pay from the day of arrest. More than 5,500 Palestinian prisoners serving time for terror-related offenses are recipients.”

This issue is obviously of interest to governments and tax payers in the many countries which donate aid to the Palestinian Authority – including of course Britain. Additionally, familiarity with this issue is key to understanding both the eternal PA budget deficit and the background to the Palestinian terrorism which the BBC has spent much of the last year reporting. Nevertheless, it continues to be a topic which is serially disregarded by the BBC.

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PA’s salaries for terrorists in the news again – but not at the BBC

Superficial BBC reporting on proposed legislation – part 2

As noted in part one of this post, less than 24 hours after the publication of a superficial article concerning the first stage approval of a bill proposed by members of the Knesset aimed at reducing noise pollution from PA systems used by religious establishments, the BBC News website replaced that report with one headlined “Israeli bills draw Palestinian warning“.yogev-bill-art-2

The article’s main purpose appears to be amplification of Palestinian Authority officials’ statements concerning proposed legislation under early stage discussion in a neighbouring sovereign state’s parliament.

“A senior Palestinian official has said his government will go to the UN to stop what he called a series of “escalatory measures” by Israel.

Nabil Abu Rudeina said Israeli plans to […] quieten calls to prayer, will “bring disasters to the region”.

On Sunday ministers backed two bills […]

The other bill would mainly impact on Muslims’ call to prayer from mosques. […]

The Palestinian Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs, Youssef Ideiss, said the plan threatened a “religious war”, the Jerusalem Post newspaper reported.”

The topic of hyperbolic PA officials seeking to intervene in internal legislation in a country in which they have no authority does not come under discussion in this BBC report. Neither does the fact that the PA is not on record as having described the proposal or introduction of similar measures to reduce noise disturbance from mosque loudspeakers in Western or Muslim countries (including neighbouring Jordan) as ‘bringing disaster’ or ‘threatening religious war’.

Instead the BBC elects to provide backwind for the latest opportunistic PA agitprop, presenting a portrayal of the proposed law on PA systems which is even more superficial than the one in its previous report and similarly naming only the Israeli prime minister despite the fact that the bill was submitted by other MKs.

“While the volume limitations it seeks to introduce would apply to all religions, mosques would have to curtail the five-times-daily calls to prayer.

Arabs account for almost 20% of the Israeli population, and the majority are Muslim.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the measure would address countless complaints about excessively loud calls to prayer from public address systems, but critics say the move would be unnecessarily divisive.”

The second proposed legislation which has drawn comment from PA officials is described by the BBC as “Israeli plans to legitimise wildcat Jewish settlements” and “intended to stop the demolition of an unauthorised West Bank settlement.” Readers are told that:

“Separately, ministers approved draft legislation which would retroactively legalise unauthorised Jewish settlements, or outposts, in the occupied West Bank.

The move was intended to prevent the removal of an outpost known as Amona, which the Supreme Court says was built on private Palestinian land. […]

On Monday, the court rejected a government petition to delay the demolition, upholding a ruling that it must be evacuated by 25 December.

The issue has caused tension within Israel’s right-wing coalition government, with some members opposed to Amona’s removal.”

No further explanation of the politics behind the proposed legislation is provided and BBC audiences are not informed of the fact that it is opposed by the State Attorney General and hence highly unlikely to become law.

“Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Monday sent a stern warning to legislators seeking to circumvent a High Court ruling to evacuate the contested West Bank outpost of Amona, saying “We cannot accept legislation that hinders decisions of the High Court of Justice.””

The BBC’s article closes using language which endorses the political narrative promoted by the PLO. [emphasis added]

“According to the anti-settlement movement Peace Now, there are 97 outposts in the occupied West Bank, and over 130 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Unlike officially recognised settlements, the government regards outposts as illegal.

Settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this. Palestinians want all settlements and outposts to be removed from the West Bank and East Jerusalem which they seek for a future Palestinian state.”

While promoting the BBC’s standard partial mantra on ‘international law’, the article fails to inform readers that according to the Oslo Accords – to which the Palestinians are of course party – the final status of Area C is to be determined in negotiations. Likewise, readers are not informed that under any realistic scenario (such as those laid out in the Clinton plan or the Olmert plan) some parts of Area C would remain under Israeli control (in exchange for land swaps) in the event of a negotiated agreement.

It should of course be clear to the BBC that its remit of building “understanding of international issues” is not achieved by context-free amplification of the narrative and demands of one party in an unresolved dispute. Clearly that is not the case.

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No follow-up to a story the BBC previously featured in four reports

This week one of the juveniles who carried out a terror attack in Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighbourhood in October 2015 was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment.

“The 14-year-old from East Jerusalem was convicted earlier this year on two counts of attempted murder for the October 2015 knife attack, in which he and his cousin critically injured a 12-year-old boy and a 25-year-old man.

The teenage assailant was 13 when he carried out the attack along with his 15-year-old cousin, who was shot dead by security forces responding at the scene.

According to the indictment filed in May, the court rejected the defense presented by the teen’s attorneys that the cousins had no intention of murdering the Israelis, but rather had simply wanted to “scare the Jews.”

The judges determined that the cousins went on the stabbing spree in order to “help Hamas and become martyrs.” Still, they took into account the defendant’s apology and the fact that his elder cousin had stabbed the two victims.”

As has been noted here before, it is extremely rare to see any follow-up reporting by the BBC after Palestinian terrorists have been arrested and put on trial (although the corporation has produced coverage of the legal process in cases in which the perpetrators were Israeli Jews) and it was therefore unsurprising to see that audiences were not informed of the outcome of the trial of the Pisgat Ze’ev attacker even though the story was covered by the BBC extensively at the time.Pisgat Zeev attacks report

On the day of the attack (October 12th 2015) the BBC News website produced a report which was amended to include a politicised description of its location.

“Two youths were stabbed earlier at a settlement in East Jerusalem, leaving one of the victims, a 13-year-old boy, in a critical condition.”

Two days later the BBC News website published an article which initially gave context-free amplification to false claims concerning the two terrorists from the PA president.

“He also accused Israel of carrying out “executions of our children in cold blood”…” 

On October 15th and 16th the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen produced written and filmed reports in which the father of the older attacker was showcased and Bowen roundly dismissed the subject of incitement.Bowen filmed Manasra

“When I met Khaled Mahania, the father of 15-year-old Hassan Mahania, who attacked and badly wounded young Israelis in a settlement in East Jerusalem, he is unable to explain.

Hassan was shot dead as he carried out the attack; his 13-year-old cousin and accomplice was run down by a car and badly hurt.

The Israeli government blames the attacks on incitement by political and religious extremists. A video has circulated of a Muslim cleric in Gaza waving a knife and calling on Palestinians to slit the throats of Jews.

Khaled Mahania told me he had not replaced his son’s smartphone since he broke it last year. He had no mobile internet access, and none at home.

Khaled had even thrown out the TV because he believed his children should read and talk to each other. Khaled broke down as he said his son was a typical teenager, not political and certainly no radical.”

When the recently sentenced youth was convicted in May, it was reported that:

“The indictment stated that Manasra returned from school and met his cousin. “They talked about the ‘situation’ at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the state of the Gaza Strip residents, the PA and Hamas. Intending to help them, they decided to become martyrs and be killed as part of a religious war.”

Since the surge in violence began last autumn, Bowen and his colleagues have repeatedly dismissed the issues of incitement and glorification of terrorism as contributing factors, preferring instead to promote PLO approved talking points concerning “the occupation” to their audiences.

Remarkably, the fact that this Palestinian teenager – and many others – expressed a will to die as a “martyr” in a “religious war” has not distracted the BBC from promotion of that chosen political narrative or prompted it to carry out any serious journalistic investigation into the issue of incitement.

BBC ‘frequent flyer’ Erekat lauds convicted terrorists

In her recent article (previously discussed here) concerning the question of who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas in his roles as president of the Palestinian Authority, chair of the PLO and head of the Fatah party the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell informed audiences that:

“One potential post-Abbas scenario would see the division of his titles: President, head of Fatah, and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

If different individuals took these jobs it would allow for a more collective political leadership.

This might involve Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator and secretary general of the PLO, and Nasser al-Kidwa, a former foreign minister and representative to the UN who is also nephew of the revered late leader, Yasser Arafat.”Erekat Hardtalk May 2015

BBC audiences are of course familiar with Saeb Erekat due to his frequent appearances on the corporation’s various platforms. They are however considerably less well-informed with regard to the views expressed by Saeb Erekat when communicating with his own people rather than with the audiences of Western media organisations.

As our colleagues at CAMERA documented, Erekat recently proclaimed his “admiration” for imprisoned terrorists.

“According to Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a non-profit organization that monitors Arab media in eastern Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), Erekat offered words of praise terrorists in an Oct. 19, 2016 edition of Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the official PA daily newspaper.

Erekat, referring to Palestinians imprisoned by Israel for committing acts of terrorism, said:

‘Our brave prisoners, who gave and sacrificed their freedom for Palestine and its freedom, are worthy of aid, support, and constant activity by us in order to release them and put an end to their suffering. The prisoners’ cause is a national and central cause, and we bow our heads in admiration and honor of the prisoners’ sacrifices, for their acts of heroism, and for their ongoing battle with the occupation.'”

Additional documentation of the messaging for domestic audiences from the man functioning as chief negotiator for the PLO (which ostensibly renounced terrorism, recognised Israel and committed itself to the peace process over two decades ago) can be found at PMW.  

With Erekat tipped by Yolande Knell as one of Mahmoud Abbas’ potential successors, BBC audiences’ understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would of course be enhanced were they provided with some insight into the stance that he (along with other potential candidates) presents to his domestic audience rather than just the PR messaging promoted for Western ears.  

BBC News ignores Hamas bid to join PLO

The possibility of Hamas joining the PLO once again made headlines this week, as the Times of Israel reports.

PLO logo

PLO logo

“Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal made a rare plea on Wednesday for uniting his popular Palestinian Islamist movement with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), bringing it, for the first time, into the umbrella group recognized internationally and by Israel as the representative of the Palestinians.

A senior PLO member told The Times of Israel that the group wants to bring Hamas under its framework, while an expert on Palestinian politics said the move was likely to take place. […]

Mashaal called for a “united authority for inside and outside of Palestine under the umbrella of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.”

“It is time we reconsider the organization [the PLO],” he said during a speech in Qatar broadcast live by Al Jazeera at the Fourth Palestinian National Security Conference, which took place in Gaza City.

In Fatah-Hamas unity deals in 2011 and 2014, the Islamist group agreed to join the PLO, but the agreements fell through. There was also a failed bid for Hamas to join the PLO in 2005.”

Despite the fact that under the terms of the Oslo Accords the PLO agreed to recognise Israel, reject terrorism and commit itself to the peace process, even while pitching his bid to join that organisation Hamas’ leader reiterated his own group’s commitment to terror.

““The wager on the diplomatic movement on its own has been proven a failure. Let us agree on a national strategy and that everyone is with the [armed] resistance, which is a legitimate right that raises the cost of the occupation,” Mashaal said.”

As was pointed out at the Tower:

“Accepting Hamas into the PLO without forcing it to renounce terrorism would put the Palestinian Authority at odds with the Quartet’s Roadmap for Peace, which requires Palestinian leadership to issue an “unequivocal statement reiterating Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and calling for an immediate end to all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere.””

One of course does not need too good a memory to recall that the last time such a move was on the cards just two and a half years ago, the Palestinian Authority’s pledges that its ‘unity government’ with Hamas would “abide by previous agreements” and “continue “programmes of peace”” were quickly proven to be worthless.

Hamas is of course highly unlikely to accept any demand to renounce terrorism – as Masha’al’s words illustrate. If the BBC does get round to reporting Hamas’ latest bid to join the PLO, it will be interesting to see whether or not audiences are accurately informed of that organisation’s existing commitments.

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BBC’s Knell omits back stories in portrayal of PA succession

October 28th saw the appearance of an article by Yolande Knell in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Titled “Palestinians face uncertainties over Abbas succession“, the report was translated into Arabic and also appeared two days later on the BBC Arabic website.knell-abbas-art-main

Knell’s staid portrayal of the issue of who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas in his role as president of the Palestinian Authority (as well as chair of the PLO and head of the Fatah party) is most notable for what is absent from her framing of the story. Given that BBC audiences suffer from a chronic lack of information concerning internal Palestinian affairs, it is of course highly unlikely that they would be able to read between Knell’s lines and fill in the blanks for themselves.

For example, readers are told that:

“Three other potentially important players have strong backing in the security forces:

  • Mohammed Dahlan, led the PA’s Preventive Security force in Gaza until 2007. He was expelled from Fatah after falling out with the president and now lives in luxurious exile in Abu Dhabi. He also has close ties to regional leaders”

Knell refrains from telling audiences that in recent months Abbas has been urged by some of those “regional leaders” to mend fences with Dahlan – as the Times of Israel explained back in August.

“Arab leaders have recently been pressuring the Palestinian Authority and its leader Mahmoud Abbas to patch up differences within Fatah and make peace with former Gaza strongman Mohammad Dahlan.

Among the heads of state who have weighed in are Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Jordan’s King Abdullah, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. […]

In response, Fatah’s Central Committee has resolved to consider readmitting to its ranks several dozen senior Fatah figures expelled for their links to Dahlan. But they have not yet agreed to readmit Dahlan himself, who was kicked out of the Gaza Strip in 2011 after a feud with Abbas.

Indeed, despite Arabic media reports about possible reconciliation within the Fatah movement, senior figures within the Palestinian Authority (PA) say there is still quite some way to go.”

Abbas himself voiced public objection to what he saw as intervention from “other capitals” on that issue – although Dahlan himself is on record as denying a wish to run for the PA presidency (despite Knell’s later claim that he and others “undoubtedly regard themselves as possible future presidents”).

Relatedly, in the days before (and since) Knell’s article was published severe violence was seen in a number of locations in PA controlled areas.

“Intense clashes erupted in three refugee camps Tuesday night between Palestinian youths and Palestinian Authority security forces, after a protest over the recent expulsion from the Fatah party of a Palestinian lawmaker was suppressed.

At least two people were wounded from reported live fire during the clashes, which took place in the refugee camps of al-Amari, near Ramallah, Balata, near Nablus, and Jenin.

The clashes began when PA security refused to allow a protest in support of Jihad Tummaleh, who was expelled from the Fatah party on Saturday by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, near Tummaleh’s home in the al-Amari refugee camp.

Tummaleh’s expulsion came after he organized a conference at al-Amari in support of “party unity.” The event was viewed by some in Ramallah as an effort to urge reconciliation between Abbas and his chief political rival Mohammad Dahlan. […]

PA security forces also arrested Tuesday night the official spokesperson of Fatah in Jerusalem, Rafat Alayan, who had earlier participated in a rally in support of Tummaleh.”

Also unmentioned by Knell is the meeting which took place between Abbas and Hamas leaders in Qatar the day before her report was published.

“The 81-year-old Abbas met with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal and Hamas’s Gaza leader, Ismail Haniyeh, for a “business lunch” in Doha, the PA’s official news agency Wafa said. […]

The meeting in Doha was attended by the Foreign Minister of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat and Palestinian Ambassador to Qatar Munir Ghanam.”

Veteran analyst Avi Issacharoff interprets that meeting as follows:

“In a turn of events no one could have foreseen mere weeks ago, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — until recently the ally of Egypt and Saudi in the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist groups — met on Wednesday with Khaled Mashaal, outgoing head of Hamas’s politburo, and with Ismail Haniyeh, Mashaal’s successor. These meetings took place after Abbas met the previous week with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani.

Erdogan and Sheikh Tamim are considered strong patrons of the Muslim Brotherhood, the great rival of Egypt and its president, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. Abbas’s meetings with them, as well as his talks with Mashaal and Haniyeh, the two highest-ranking members of Hamas (the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian offshoot), may even lead to a historic reconciliation with Hamas, though that outcome is still a long way off. Whether such a reconciliation would be a good or a bad thing depends on whom you ask.

So what — or, rather, who — has led Abbas straight into the arms of the Muslim Brotherhood, and maybe even into those of Hamas, just days after a high-ranking Hamas official in Gaza called him a traitor?

The answer is simple: Mohammad Dahlan. This former high-ranking Fatah official, who has been challenging Abbas for several years, succeeded this week in areas where even Hamas has failed. He managed to get Cairo on his side in the fight against Abbas and proved how weak and shaky Abbas’s status is in the Arab world.”

As Issacharoff also points out, another succession struggle is also underway:

“…everybody is busy with the question of “the day after.” Many members of Fatah fear that the day is fast approaching when Fatah will split over the uncompromising battle between Dahlan and Abbas, and Hamas will become more powerful still.

It should be emphasized that Dahlan is not the only one in Fatah to be marking out territory in anticipation of the fight over the succession.

The highest levels of Fatah, as a whole, are busy with Fatah’s general assembly, which is set to take place in late November and can point the way to who Abbas’s successor might be. Fatah’s Central Council will be elected during the assembly — and according to Fatah’s bylaws, it is only from the Central Council that Abbas’s successor, Fatah’s next chairman, may be chosen. It is also likely that the assembly will elect Fatah’s deputy chairman, who could, in time, succeed to the chairmanship.”

All that internal Palestinian conflict is obscured by Knell. She does however find it necessary to promote ‘analysis’ from a Belgium-based NGO.

“…there is no clear frontrunner and analysts warn against second-guessing the dynamics within Fatah.

“The names you hear about most often are basically former security people because these are whom Israel is most comfortable with and whom Western donors have interacted with and vetted,” says Nathan Thrall of International Crisis Group.

“These sometimes correlate with what’s realistic in Fatah power structures but oftentimes not.””

So is Yolande Knell unaware of the back story to the issue she supposedly set out to explain to BBC audiences? A vaguely worded caption to one of the images used to illustrate the article suggests not.

knell-abbas-art-pic

The question that therefore arises is why the BBC’s funding public and worldwide audiences are not being told the whole story. 

 

BBC R4 programme on UNESCO omits negation of Jewish heritage

A programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on September 26th under the title “UNESCO: 70 Years of Peacekeeping” purported to explore that UN agency’s role in promoting peace.r4-unesco-prog

“The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage in Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali and Syria has been condemned as a war crime by UNESCO – the ‘intellectual’ agency of the United Nations. But aside from issuing statements, what can this organisation achieve?

Culture writer Charlotte Higgins explores the UN’s peacekeeping agency, established 70 years ago to build peace through education, science and culture. Its founders knew that a safer world could not be engineered through economics or politics alone. With optimism and purpose, they called on countries to pull together to inspire hearts and minds.

Today, UNESCO is best known for World Heritage, which promotes a sense of collective identity. Yet with attacks on ancient sites now at the frontline of conflicts, UNESCO’s soft power is in the spotlight.

“I know that we don’t have an army, we cannot deploy troops,” says Director General Irina Bokova, “I wish we could have a stronger way of doing something.”

Charlotte navigates UNESCO HQ in Paris, a modernist expression of post war ambition. Here, members of staff can recite the ringing first sentence of UNESCO’s constitution by heart: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” Even so, UNESCO struggles to keep its 195 member states around the table, most notably with the United States – the biggest contributor to the budget – withholding payment since Palestine joined. As the geopolitical situation mutates and fragments, Charlotte asks whether the intellectual peacekeepers can keep up.”

The topic of the US withholding of funds to UNESCO is addressed at 23:39:

Higgins: “In recent years, however, the US has stopped paying its bill but UNESCO doesn’t want to lose its presence at the table.”

Interviewee: “In US law, if any UN body allows Palestine as a member state, it doesn’t leave that organization but there’s an automatic cut. So in November 2011 when UNESCO allows Palestine as a member, the US cuts off its dues, which is almost one quarter of UNESCO’s budget.”

That description omits a relevant aspect of the US legislation which was reported by the BBC itself at the time:

“A US law passed in the 1990s bars giving funding to any UN body that admits the Palestinians as full members before an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is reached.” [emphasis added]

Although this programme purports to examine UNESCO’s role in promoting peace, it notably omits any reference whatsoever to a topic which the BBC has to date consistently refrained from reporting.

 UNESCO’s ‘rebranding’ of Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron as ‘Palestinian’ sites (along with other attempts to politicise cultural and religious sites in the region and erase Jewish heritage) is clearly an example of the way in which political pressures undermine that UN body’s founding constitution.

Despite the BBC being supposedly committed to enhancing audience understanding of international issues, that aspect of UNESCO’s record is completely absent from this programme. 

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BBC reports on three terror attacks without using the word terror

A number of terror attacks which took place on Friday, September 16th were the topic of an article published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on that day under the title “Spate of attacks on Israelis leaves three assailants dead“.art-terror-16-9

The report relates to three separate attacks. An attempted stabbing at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem by a Jordanian national who had entered Israel the previous day is described thus:

“In East Jerusalem, a Jordanian man was killed by security forces after trying to stab police outside Damascus Gate, according to Israeli authorities.

The site has been the scene of multiple attacks on Israelis, and killings of assailants, in previous months.”

A vehicular attack near Kiryat Arba by a Palestinian couple is described as follows:

“In one [attack], a Palestinian was shot dead after ramming his vehicle into civilians at a bus stop near the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba, the military said. Three people were wounded.

Another Palestinian who was involved in the attack was shot and wounded, officials said.”

A stabbing attack at a checkpoint in Hebron is portrayed as follows:

“Hours later, a Palestinian who stabbed and wounded a soldier at a junction near Hebron was shot dead, officials said.”

Notably – but entirely predictably – despite the fact that it describes three separate terror attacks, the word ‘terror’ does not appear in this report at all.

On the same day the driver of a bus travelling from Jerusalem to Ma’ale Adumim was injured in an additional attack. The next day – September 17th – a soldier was wounded in a stabbing attack in Tel Rumeida in Hebron. Early on the morning of September 18th, a soldier was wounded in additional attack in Efrat. Despite still being available online, the BBC’s report was not updated to include any of those attacks and no stand-alone reporting of them was published.

Although the BBC has had almost a year in which to independently verify the circumstances of the deaths of Palestinian terrorists, it continues to employ the qualifying “Israel says” formula and erases from audience view the four foreign nationals also killed during terror attacks since last October.

“Thirty-five Israelis been killed in a wave of knife, gun and car-ramming attacks by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs since last October.

More than 200 Palestinians – mostly attackers, Israel says – have also been killed in that period.”

The article closes with another now standard BBC mantra that amplifies PLO messaging:

“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

As regular readers will be aware, the corporation has failed to provide its audiences with any meaningful reporting on the topic of incitement and glorification of terrorism by official Palestinian bodies throughout the past year. It has also refrained from informing them of the existence of additional factors underpinning the violence such as religious ideology.

One of the perpetrators of the vehicular attack reported in this article clarified her motivation in writing.

“A Palestinian woman who took part in a car-ramming attack that injured three Israeli teenagers last week left a note stating her motive: to atone for her premarital relationship with the driver of the vehicle.

Raghad Khadour, 20, detailed her reasons for joining her boyfriend — who drove a pickup truck on Friday into a group of Israelis waiting at a bus stop outside the Kiryat Arba settlement in the West Bank — in a written testament, Arabic media sources said.”

Since that motive does not fit in with the BBC’s much promoted mantra of “frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation”, it is of course highly unlikely that BBC audiences will be informed of the real background to an attack the corporation cannot even bring itself to accurately define as terrorism.

BBC News amplifies PA’s spin on Abbas KGB story

On September 8th an article titled “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ‘was KGB agent’” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. The article relates to a story first promoted by Channel 1 in Israel the previous day and it informs readers that:abbas-kgb-story  

“Israeli researchers have alleged that the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, worked for the Soviet intelligence agency the KGB in the early 1980s.

Researchers from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem say a Soviet-era document lists him as an agent. […]

Researchers Gideon Remez and Isabella Ginor said the document, in an archive at Cambridge University, shows that Mr Abbas was a KGB spy when he lived in Damascus in Syria.

The document, which the University of Cambridge’s Churchill Archives Centre confirmed was authentic, was smuggled in to the UK by a defector called Vasily Mitrokhin.

It is entitled “KGB developments – Year 1983” and Mr Abbas identifies him [sic] by the codename “Krotov” or “mole”.

“‘Krotov’ – Abbas, Mahmoud, born 1935, origin Palestine, member of the executive committee of Fatah, PLO, Damascus, agent of the KGB,” says the brief entry.”

However, the report also promotes irrelevant linkage between that story and a completely unrelated topic.

“The [PA] president’s spokesman described the claim as an absurd Israeli “smear”.

He suggested it was made to derail attempts to re-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. […]

An adviser to the [PA] president told the BBC the allegation was made up by Israel.

He said Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained reluctant to meet Mr Abbas in a potential new round of peace talks organised by Russian President Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB staff member.””

Readers of the article are not told how “Israel” supposedly “made up” documents in the Cambridge University archives and despite uncritically amplifying the spin of PA officials, the article does not adequately clarify that the academic researchers have no connection to the Israeli government.  

Towards the end of the article, readers are told that:

“Mr Abbas was born in 1935 in what was then British mandate of Palestine. After the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 his family fled to the Syrian capital, where he was educated.”

In fact, historical record shows that it is more likely that Abbas’ family decided to leave Tsfat (Safed) before Israel declared independence on May 14th 1948.

“And what about Safed? Having declined an offer by Gen. Hugh Stockwell, commander of the British forces in northern Palestine, to mediate a truce, the Arabs responded to the British evacuation of the city with a heavy assault on the tiny Jewish community, less than a quarter their size. “Upon the British evacuation on April 16, we occupied all the city’s strategic positions: the Citadel, the Government House, and the police post on Mount Canaan,” recalled a local Arab fighter.

“We were the majority, and the feeling among us was that we would defeat the Jews with sticks and rocks.”

What this prognosis failed to consider was the tenacity of the Jewish resolve to hold on to Safed, awarded by the partition resolution to the prospective Jewish state, on the one hand, and the intensity of Arab flight psychosis, on the other. As tens of thousands of Arabs streamed out of Tiberias and Haifa within days of the British evacuation of Safed, members of the city’s leading families and ordinary residents alike decided that now was the time to escape – which is probably when Abbas’s affluent family fled. In the words of a British intelligence report, “Such is their state of fear [that] Arabs are beginning to evacuate Safed although the Jews have not yet attacked them.” […]

On May 2, following the bombing of the Arab quarter by the deafening albeit highly ineffective home-made “David’s mortar,” scores of Arabs fled Safed en route to the Jordan Valley, accompanied by a substantial number of Arab Liberation Army fighters. Four days later, the ALA’s regional commander reported that “the majority of the inhabitants have left [Safed’s neighboring] villages.

Their morale has collapsed completely.”

Heavy artillery bombardments of Jewish neighborhoods failed to do the trick, and as the final battle for the city was joined on the night of May 9 a mass flight ensued. By the time fighting was over the next morning, Safed’s entire Arab population had taken to the road; a day later, Hagana patrols reported that “the [Arab] quarter had emptied to a man,” with evacuees leaving behind “a huge quantity of weapons and ammunition.””

The article’s penultimate paragraph quotes a newly arrived BBC journalist currently visiting the Middle East.

“Although the biographical details are correct, the BBC’s Thomas Fessy in Jerusalem notes that the document does not say how and when Mr Abbas would have been recruited, whether he was paid, and how long he might have worked for the KGB.”

Interestingly, the article does not reflect an additional observation from Fessy.

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As Reuters noted:

“Adding to the intrigue, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, whom Putin has tasked with arranging the Moscow summit, served two stints in the Soviet embassy in Damascus between 1983 and 1994, covering the period in which Abbas was purportedly recruited.

Bogdanov was in the area this week for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials.”

Clearly the BBC’s unchallenged amplification of vacuous spin from PA officials detracts from audience understanding of this story.