BBC Radio 4 fails to clarify the agenda of the BDS campaign and the PSC

The September 18th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday‘ included an item (from 11:54 here) described as follows in the synopsis:sunday-18-9-bod-ujs

“Jewish students fight the movement for sanctions against Israel”.

Presenter Edward Stourton introduced the item with a specious portrayal of the purpose of the BDS campaign.

“Most universities begin the new academic year around this time. The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Union of Jewish Students are marking the moment by sending round advice on how to combat the activities of the Boycott, Disinvestment [sic] Sanctions movement – or BDS – which, in the words of its website, urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law. We’re joined by Joel Salmon, the Board of Deputies Parliamentary Officer, and Ben Jamal who next month will take up the post of director of the Palestinian [sic] Solidarity Campaign.” [emphasis added]

The majority of listeners would of course lack the knowledge needed to appreciate just how inaccurate and misleading Stourton’s portrayal is because the BBC consistently refrains from informing its audiences that what the BDS campaign really seeks to achieve is the demise of the Jewish state. Moreover, the corporation has even shrugged off the responsibility to clarify the BDS agenda in its frequent amplification of that campaign.

In addition, listeners to this item were not informed of the “particular viewpoint” of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality demand before they heard the fallacious framing of the BDS campaign from Ben Jamal, who previously headed the PSC’s Richmond and Kingston branch.

“…I think what we’d also all want students to do is to engage in and to be involved in discussion and activism around human rights and issues of social and international justice.”

“And I think boycott – as I understand it – is a non-violent tactic that throughout history has been used by those defending human rights and fighting against oppression.”

“…this is the tactic for example that Gandhi used to oppose Britain’s violation of rights in India. It’s the tactic that Martin Luther King used to oppose segregation and it’s the tactic that Nelson Mandela used to defend the rights of black South Africans. I take Gandhi’s framing of boycott. In a way it’s a form of dialogue. It’s a way of saying to someone ‘I respect your humanity but I will not cooperate or give my political or economic support to what you are doing’.”

The uninformed listener would hence not be capable of putting Jamal’s portrayal of the specific BoD/UJS handout which is the subject of the item into its appropriate context or understanding that the undertone of the Livingstone Formulation that portrayal includes is not apparently by chance.

“One of the concerns I’ve got at the leaflet or pamphlet that’s been produced is it’s part of an attempt I think to reframe a tactic of boycott as something that is inherently divisive, hostile or at worst extremist or even quasi-violent.”

“I think my concern is this is an attempt to frame any advocacy of boycott or any criticism of Israel as inherently hostile.”

Clearly the predictable absence of adequate explanation of the BDS campaign’s true agenda in this item once again undermined the BBC’s public purpose remit of enhancing audience awareness and understanding of the issue in general and certainly did nothing to contribute to the general public’s comprehension of the very serious problem of antisemitism on the campuses of UK universities.

Anti-Israel BBC interviewee runs foul of UK bank’s ‘risk appetite’

Last month the Jewish Chronicle reported that a British bank had informed an anti-Israel campaigning group of its decision to terminate services.

Anti-Israel rally, London, UK, 17/10/2015

Anti-Israel rally, London, UK, 17/10/2015

“An anti-Israel group has accused the Co-operative Bank of “institutional bullying and racism” after it was told its bank account would be closed.

Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA) was informed last month that its account with the Co-op would be closed after a 60-day notice period.”

As the JC also reported, the same bank previously terminated its business with other anti-Israel campaigning groups, including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

“In those cases, the Co-op said the decision was due to its own “risk appetite” and had followed due diligence checks.

FOA chair Ismail Patel, who was a leading supporter of blood libel cleric Sheikh Raed Salah, said: “There is no legitimate way for the Co-operative Bank to justify its actions.”

An article in the Independent quoted a spokesperson for the bank as saying that:

“…it carries out due diligence checks on all of its customers, especially those operating in high risk environments, to make sure the funds do not inadvertently fund “illegal or other proscribed activities”.

“Unfortunately, after quite extensive research, the charities involved did not meet our requirements or, in our view, allow us to fulfil our obligations,” the spokesperson said.” 

The JC noted that:

“Mr Patel regularly appears in the British media to attack Israel, and in 2009 [2010 – Ed.] was a passenger on the Mavi Marmara ship which was involved in the Gaza flotilla incident.”Ismail Patel

The BBC is one of the British media organisations to have hosted Ismail Patel on its national (for example here and here) and local platforms (for example here, here, here and here). The corporation has also promoted campaigns and demonstrations organised by Mr Patel’s group and has used contributions from another organisation with which Mr Patel is associated. Together with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al Aqsa has pressured the BBC on the topic of its coverage of Israel’s capital city.

It of course remains to be seen whether or not the BBC has a ‘risk appetite’ of its own concerning the appearances of representatives of Hamas-supporting groups such as Friends of Al Aqsa and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign on BBC platforms.  

Related Articles:

The Independent has no idea why Co-op Bank closed Friends of Al-Aqsa’s account  (UK Media Watch) 

More conspiracy theory amplification from BBC’s Yolande Knell – and why it matters

 

BBC takes lessons on ‘impartiality’ from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign

As readers may have heard, the BBC has described a former employee’s signature on a letter opposing a cultural boycott of Israel as “inadvisable”.

“The BBC has criticised former director of television Danny Cohen for signing a letter opposing a cultural boycott of Israel.

The corporation said that it regretted the “impression” created by Mr Cohen’s name appearing on the letter but that it “had no bearing on his ability to do his day job”.

The letter, published in the Guardian in October, was signed by more than 150 writers, artists, musicians and media personalities including J K Rowling and Melvyn Bragg. It was a response to an earlier announcement by media personalities calling for a cultural boycott of Israel and described boycotting Israel as ‘a barrier to peace’.

Following a complaint to the BBC about Mr Cohen’s involvement, the BBC responded in a December email describing Mr Cohen’s actions as ‘inadvisable’. The email went on to say that senior employees “should avoid making their views known on issues of current political controversy”. However, no further action was taken as Mr Cohen, who announced that he was leaving the BBC the week before the letter was published, no longer worked for the corporation.”

Via the Guardian’s account of the story, we learn that:

“Sara Apps, interim director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said the views in the letter opposing the boycott were “those of the Israeli state” and called on the BBC to provide reassurance that staff “are impartial and seen to be impartial, in their work at the BBC” .

She said: “By failing to take any action against Cohen, the BBC sent a message to licence fee payers that it only pays lip service to the concept of impartiality when it comes to the subject of Palestine and Israel, and that BBC executives are free to publicly express their views on this subject with no regard for the code of impartiality written into the royal charter.”PSC campaign against Danny Cohen

One cannot of course disagree with the demand for the BBC to ensure that its staff  “are impartial and seen to be impartial, in their work at the BBC”. One also cannot disagree with the claim that when BBC staff “publicly express their views on this subject” there is a risk that the BBC’s impartiality may be compromised.

The trouble is that Ms Apps and her friends at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign who organized the complaints against Danny Cohen (the group’s second campaign against a Jewish BBC employee in just over a year) do not in fact care a fig about BBC impartiality.  

If they did, they would have similarly protested when a BBC staff member with considerably more influence on the impartiality of the BBC’s reporting of news from the Middle East than the corporation’s director of television collaborated with an anti-Israel political campaign run by one of the signatories to that February 2015 pro-boycott letter, Leila Sansour.Knell Crouch End 2

They would surely also have had something to say on the topic of ‘impartiality’ in relation to the fact that the BBC has broadcast content made by a former employee who pinned his own political colours to the mast by collaborating with the Palestine Solidarity campaign.

There is of course nothing novel about this latest episode in the PSC’s employment of selective outrage over BBC impartiality for anti-Israel PR purposes. Sadly, there is also nothing remarkable about this latest example of the BBC allowing itself and its editorial guidelines to be used as tool in the political campaigning of an opaquely funded group which provides support for a terrorist organization proscribed by the British government.

And whilst we’re on that subject, if readers are wondering why the Palestine Solidarity Campaign currently has an ‘interim director’ (and what happened to the previous flotilla participating one), the answers can be found here.  

Related Articles:

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No BBC coverage of antisemitism at event organised by its most promoted NGO

BBC’s capitulation to political pressure on Gaza casualty figures: tip of a bigger iceberg?

Selective PSC outrage over BBC impartiality and integrity

Why does the BBC Trust’s ESC pretend that the 1947 Partition Plan is a thing?

BBC News gives a megaphone to BDS rhetoric yet again

Visitors to the ‘Manchester’ page on the BBC News website on January 22nd found the BBC’s version of a story reported two days earlier by the Jewish Chronicle.Sheridan Suite story

The story relates to the cancellation of a rally, scheduled for January 31st, organized by North West Friends of Israel and additional Jewish community organisations. The BBC’s article – titled “Manchester’s Sheridan Suite pulls out of pro-Israeli event” opens as follows:

“A venue has pulled out of hosting an event in support of Israel after pro-Palestinian supporters complained.

North West Friends of Israel (NWFOI) said the Sheridan Suite in Manchester had “succumbed to gross intimidation” by cancelling a booking for 31 January.

A coalition of pro-Palestinian groups said it was “a moral duty” for firms to refuse to host events that “glorify Israel’s decades-long illegal occupation… of the Palestinians”.”

A more fitting description of the groups concerned would of course be ‘anti-Israel’ rather than “pro-Palestinian” but there is nothing novel about the BBC’s failure to accurately represent such activists.

Having expanded on NWFOI’s comments in seventy-seven words, the article then goes on to devote one hundred and eleven words to unqualified, context-free promotion of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign’s messaging.

“Advocates of a boycott claim it exerts pressure on the Israeli government, particularly over the building of settlements in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, which has been condemned by the United Nations.

Four groups, including Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine, issued a statement, saying: “It is not anti-Semitism to oppose the Israeli regime and its oppressive system of domination over the Palestinians.”

They claimed event organisers were trying to “plead victim while more theft of Palestinian land takes place every day”, adding that its campaign was similar to international boycotts of South Africa in the 1970s and 80s, when anti-apartheid activists tried to bring down white minority rule.”

As is consistently the case in any BBC report involving the subject of BDS, no effort is made to inform readers of the real agenda which underlies that campaign. It would have been relevant, for example, for readers of this report to know that the chair of the Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign is on record as saying “What we want to see the end of is the Zionist state” and for them to understand that opposition to Jewish self-determination falls within accepted definitions of antisemitism.  

The result is that once again the supposedly ‘impartial’ BBC whitewashes the messaging of the anti-peace BDS campaign whilst mainstreaming its tactical rhetoric such as the ‘apartheid’ trope.

Notably, another recent story from the UK connected to “pro-Palestinian” supporters of BDS silencing free speech – which was reported by mainstream media outlets such as the Daily Mail, the Independent, the Jewish Chronicle and the Telegraph – appears to have received only minimal local coverage from the BBC three days after the incident took place.

Related Articles:

Context-free amplification of BDS in BBC reports on London Mayor’s remarks

Chair of Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign declares Israeli Hoopoe birds ‘Aves non gratae’

‘Air Flotilla 2’ Participants – the trailer (Anti-Zionist ‘activists’ consumed by hate)

No BBC coverage of antisemitism at event organised by its most promoted NGO

An anti-Israel demonstration which took place in the heart of London on September 9th, ostensibly to protest a two-day visit to the UK by the Israeli prime minister, received no coverage on the BBC News website on the day that it took place.

That editorial decision is all the more interesting when one considers that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign – which organised the protest – and some of its supporting groups are not infrequently promoted on BBC platforms.

demo London organisers

demo London woman with placard

credit: Sussex Friends of Israel

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign was in fact the non-Israeli NGO most promoted in BBC Israel-related content during 2014. Only recently BBC audiences saw coverage of another event organised, among others, by the PSC, the Stop the War Coalition and Friends of Al Aqsa. FoAA’s Ismail Patel has appeared on various BBC programmes, as have the spokesperson for ‘War on Want’ and representatives of FOSIS.

It would therefore have been relevant for audiences to be made aware of the fact that an event organised by groups to which the BBC frequently gives a platform was marked by hate speech, antisemitism and support for terrorism.

For example, as the Jewish News reports (link includes video):

“A pro-Palestinian protester waved a penny at pro-Israel demonstrators and shouted “you only understand money”, before police placed handcuffs on him. […]

In the short clip filmed outside Whitehall by the Zionist Federation UK, he tells pro-Israel demonstrators: “Here have a penny..” adding “you only understand money” a number of times.”demo London Hizb flags 2

A woman identified as Pamela Hardyment felt free to advocate ethnic cleansing and genocide of Israeli Jews on camera.

“In another incident caught on camera, a […] woman tells Israel supporters that the Jews in Israel should “go into the sea, they’re not coming here.

“We would absolutely march against Zionists coming here as refugees,” added the woman, clad in a keffiyeh and carrying an umbrella bearing the word “Palestine.”

“So you want another Holocaust?” the pro-Israel activist asks her. “I don’t know what the Holocaust is,” she replies.

“I want them out of Israel,” the woman says later in the video, referring to Israeli Jews.

“You’ll have to kill them all,” says a voice off camera. “Well, so be it,” she responds as she walks off.”

The first mention of that demonstration came a whole day after it took place in an article titled “Netanyahu urges action to stop Middle East ‘disintegrating’” which appeared on the BBC News website’s UK and Middle East pages on September 10th. There readers were told that:

“Campaigners clashed ahead of the visit.

Protesters demanding Mr Netanyahu’s arrest for alleged war crimes in Gaza clashed with pro-Israel activists on Wednesday.”

Clearly that is not an accurate or comprehensive portrayal of the demonstration, so perhaps the BBC would like to share with its funding public the editorial considerations behind the airbrushing of antisemitism, hate speech and support for terrorist groups from the picture it presented to its audiences?

Related Articles:

When criticism of Israel crosses the line to extreme antisemitism: London edition   (UK Media Watch) 

 

 

BBC fails to tell audiences what was really behind Cardiff football match demo

Notable aspects of BBC promotion of its coverage of the September 6th football match between Israel and Wales included the gratuitous use of an image showing a flag belonging to neither of the countries participating in the game and no less ‘creative’ use of an apostrophe.

BBC Wales vs Israel flag

BBC Wales vs Israel 5live

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Wales page also found a short article headlined “Pro and anti-Israel demonstrations ahead of Euro game” but in the body of the article the demonstrators previously accurately described as ‘anti-Israel’ became “protestors backing Palestine”.Wales game art

“Protestors backing Palestine and supporters of Israel have held counter demonstrations ahead of Wales’ crunch Euro 2016 qualifier in Cardiff.

Up to 2,000 people joined a march for Palestine from City Hall towards Cardiff City Stadium, where Wales kicks off against Israel at 17:00 BST.”

Whilst other media outlets quoted smaller numbers of participants (WalesOnline had 75% of the BBC’s figure, the Guardian used the term “hundreds” and Ha’aretz “a few hundred”), the outstanding feature of this report is its evasive representation of the organisers of the demonstration and their motives.

“Organisers claim sport is being used as a public relations tool by Israel. […]

The pro-Palestine protest was organised by Fair Play for Palestine, with calls for Israel to be stripped of its membership of football’s governing body, Fifa.”

Readers are not told that the Palestinian delegation to the FIFA congress held at the end of May dropped its motion to have Israel suspended from the organization or that FIFA’s executive committee ruled that the Congress “cannot interfere into political territories”.BBC Wales vs Israel demo poster 

Neither are they told that the organisations behind the ‘Fair Play for Palestine’ campaign (and the demonstration in Cardiff) are the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Stop the War Coalition, Friends of Al Aqsa (headed by Ismail Patel) and a straw-man front called ‘Red Card Israeli Racism’ which includes some of the above actors and which aligns itself with the BDS campaign.

“Our campaign activists are mostly British or Irish members of organisations that strive to support the Palestinian people: PSC (Palestinian Solidarity Campaign), FOA (Friends of Al-Aqsa), JBIG (Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods), BIN (Boycott Israel Network) and BNC (Boycott National Committee, Palestine). We see our work as part of the wider BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) activity that was formally established by Palestinians in 2005. We are part of a group of several European nations active in this area.” [emphasis added]

Without that essential information, BBC audiences were of course deprived of the opportunity to understand that this story is actually not about football at all but concerns yet another of the quotidian attempts to delegitimize Israel by the usual small groups of extremist political actors – as captured on camera by one photographer present.

BBC Wales vs Israel Demotix pic

However, seeing as the BBC does not think its job includes informing audiences of the BDS campaign’s full agenda, the omission of that vital background information is entirely in keeping with the corporation’s existing editorial approach to this issue.   

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BBC Radio Wales promotes and endorses anti-Israel activist with a penchant for Nazi analogy

BBC Radio Wales promotes and endorses anti-Israel activist with a penchant for Nazi analogy

The ‘Stop the War Coalition’ is just about the last organisation one would approach for rational, impartial, factual and informative comment on anything connected to the Middle East. As has been noted here before, the StWC:

“… collaborates with 9/11 ‘troofers’ and antisemites such as Lowkey. It supports the annual Al Quds Day anti-Israel hate-fest organized in London by the Khomenist-regime’s UK supporters at the IHRC. It dabbles in anti-Americanism and antisemitism of its own and has rallied in support of the Assad regime in Syria and the Iranian dictatorship.” 

Nevertheless, that was precisely the group from which BBC Radio Wales solicited comment in an item concerning Cardiff council’s cancellation of a photography exhibition showing coexistence in Israel through football less than a day after it opened which was broadcast on September 4th on its ‘Good Evening Wales’ programme.BBC Radio Wales Cardiff exhib

As readers are no doubt aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality demand that the “viewpoint” of interviewees be clarified to audiences.

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

However, no adequate clarification was in evidence when presenter Gareth Lewis introduced the first section of this two-part item (available from 36:36 here for a limited period of time).

Lewis: “The Israeli embassy has called Cardiff Council ‘outrageous’ for ending early an exhibition about multi-faith football between Jews and Palestinians just days before the Wales-Israel European qualifying match. Cardiff Council said it received a complaint about the exhibition and was made aware of the potential for a large demonstration outside the city’s main library where the exhibition was being held. It also said it didn’t want to be seen as displaying political bias. Well, Adam Johannes joins us. He’s from the Stop the War Coalition. Good to have you with us.”

That brief introduction of course did nothing to inform listeners of the “particular viewpoint” lying behind the inaccurate information they heard from Johannes during the next four and a half minutes, which included the following:

Palestinian 'footballer' Ayman Alkurd killed in 2009 (photo: Elder of Ziyon)

Palestinian ‘footballer’ Ayman Alkurd – killed in 2009 (photo: Elder of Ziyon)

Johannes: “Erm, well, I think the exhibition should have never really been staged in the first place. It was sponsored by the Israeli embassy. It was essentially, I think, a PR stunt to gloss over the reality of football in the Middle East which is a very serious situation. For instance – if I can give you an example – over the last decade or so four players in the Palestinian national team have lost their lives at the hands of the Israeli military. Other players have been detained without trial sometimes for months or years. Players are regularly prevented from attending matches. The Palestinian national team for instance…Israel is playing in Wales but at the same time Israel’s preventing Palestinian players going from Gaza to the West Bank to play an important match against the UAE. So when you have a country which prevents other, you know, other FIFA members from playing football, then really I think we have to say that Israel – until it allows Palestinians to play football – should be expelled from UEFA and FIFA.”BBC radio Wales Cardiff cogat tweets

Gareth Lewis made no effort to provide listeners with the much-needed context deliberately omitted by Johannes. He failed to tell them that it is the known connections of some Palestinian footballers to terrorist organisations which have brought about their detention. He neglected to inform BBC audiences that at least three of those four players who “lost their lives at the hands of the Israeli military” were active members of terrorist organisations (two Hamas and one PIJ) who took part in fighting against Israel during Operation Cast Lead. And he omitted any mention of the fact that it is precisely issues such as those above which make security checks for Palestinian footballers exiting the Gaza Strip necessary and that the topic of movement is often more complex than meets the eye.

Lewis also failed to correct the misleading impression created by Johannes’ risible claim that “Palestinians want to keep politics out of sport” by informing listeners of Jibril Rajoub’s record of coopting sport precisely for political purposes. He neglected to inform audiences of the all-important context behind the following statement from Johannes:

“….the Palestine stadium in Gaza has been bombed twice by the Israeli military – the main football stadium, you know, for Palestinians….”

 And Lewis obviously had no concerns about providing Johannes with a BBC platform for the promotion of additional crude delegitimisation:

“…remember the days of apartheid South Africa. People used to hold up these small examples of coexistence […] to gloss over the fundamental reality of institutionalized racism, of apartheid.”

Later on in the programme (from 1:35:55 here) a further five minutes were devoted to the same topic and the interviewee this time was the Israeli embassy in London’s spokesman, Yiftach Curiel. Introduced by presenter Peter Johnson, the segment began with an edited rerun of some of Johannes’ propaganda, again without adequate clarification concerning the views of man and his organisation.

Johnson: “Well earlier on this programme we spoke to Adam Johannes from the Stop the War Coalition who was supporting the withdrawal of the exhibition. He said it glossed over the reality of the situation in the Middle East.”

Johannes: “Erm, well, I think the exhibition should have never really been staged in the first place. It was sponsored by the Israeli embassy. It was essentially, I think, a PR stunt to gloss over the reality of football in the Middle East which is a very serious situation. For instance – if I can give you an example – over the last decade or so four players in the Palestinian national team have lost their lives at the hands of the Israeli military. Other players have been detained without trial sometimes for months or years. Players are regularly prevented from attending matches. So when you have a country which prevents other, you know, other FIFA members from playing football, then really I think we have to say that Israel – until it allows Palestinians to play football – should be expelled from UEFA and FIFA.”

Johnson: “Adam Johannes of the Stop the War Coalition speaking on this programme a little earlier.”BBC Radio Wales Cardiff Johannes FB PSC

In addition to failing once again to provide the much-needed missing background and context to Johannes’ claims broadcast to listeners twice within the space of an hour, during his conversation with Curiel, Johnson even told audiences that they were legitimate.

Johnson: “OK, the point that Adam Johannes made is a valid one – that it isn’t actually easy for Palestinians to play football in the Middle East and that Israel has actually impeded the travel of Palestinian footballers. I mean that much is true.” [emphasis added]

Ironically in an item laden with anti-Israel propaganda, Johnson later added:

“There will be those, Yiftach, who merely see this [exhibition] as an opportunity for Israeli propaganda in Wales….”

So what should BBC Radio Wales have told its listeners about Adam Johannes before it provided him with an unhindered platform for partisan political messaging which even got BBC endorsement from Peter Johnson?

Here, in his own words, is Johannes’ bio from a site called ‘Radical Wales’:

BBC Radio Wales Johannes bio

Audiences should also obviously have been told that Johannes has been involved in football-related anti-Israel campaigning for some time and is one of those involved in organizing the opportunistic agitprop ahead of the Israel-Wales match in Cardiff. Listeners would also have been better able to put Johannes’ contribution to this programme into its correct context had BBC Radio Wales bothered to tell them that he is fond of using Nazi analogies during his anti-Israel campaigning, as the following example from 2012 shows.

Not only did BBC Radio Wales clearly breach its own editorial guidelines by failing to provide listeners with any of the very relevant background on Adam Johannes or the ‘Stop the War Coalition’, but it also materially misled audiences on the topic of Palestinian football by failing to provide the facts and context missing from its interviewee’s politically motivated diatribe.  

Related Articles:

Beyond the BBC narrative: Cardiff, coexistence and Israel

BBC yet again conceals terror connections of Palestinian ‘footballers’

Resources:

BBC Radio Wales – contact details

BBC Complaints

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News promotes Tariq Ali’s lies and disinformation

The BBC’s tail-between-legs response to the public relations campaign (and that, after all, is what it is) by anti-Israel activists which includes criticism of the corporation’s coverage of the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip as being too ‘pro-Israel’ is a topic worthy of in-depth documentation and analysis.

In the meantime, here is an item which was obviously conceived as an attempt to placate some of that criticism – as shown by the presenter’s response when his interviewee relates to the topic of anger directed at the BBC.

“I mean the BBC would no doubt defend the balance of its coverage and obviously we’re speaking to you now live on the BBC to get your view.”

The BBC News website version of this television news report appeared under the title “‘Israel started this war’ – Tariq Ali at Gaza rally in London” on August 9th. Why an interview so replete with disinformation and downright lies was considered appropriate for further promotion on the BBC News website is a question in itself.

Of course ‘live’ television is often not live at all, with a broadcast delay routinely employed as a safety net. It is therefore all the more unclear why the BBC broadcast an entire interview with the backdrop shown below.

Tariq Ali int pic 1

Tariq Ali int pic 2

As for the factually challenged Mr Ali himself; well the BBC gave him free rein to lie, to defame and to mislead BBC audiences for almost two and a half minutes. For some reason perhaps best known to himself, the presenter Mark Sanders apparently thought it a good idea to ask a writer about the subject of military proportionality in warfare.

Sanders: “In terms of the actual issue now, do you regard Israel’s response as proportionate given that Hamas are firing rockets and the Israelis saying this is simply a response to those rockets and also to the tunnels that are being dug – that militants of Hamas have used?”

Tariq Ali: “But you know, let’s be clear about this. Israel started this war when those…you know…people were kidnapped not by Hamas – their leadership denied it – but by some rogue group. So they carried out a war against…eh….Gaza to destroy Hamas as they’ve attempted before.”

As we noted here last week, the myth that a ‘rogue cell’ kidnapped and murdered Naftali Frankel, Gilad Sha’ar and Eyal Yifrach unraveled when Hussam Kawasme admitted to having secured funding for the terror attack from Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Operation Protective Edge of course actually commenced due to the serious escalation of missile attacks between June 12th and July 8th. The BBC’s presenter however did not bother to step in to prevent Tariq Ali’s misleading of viewers with regard to the cause of the operation and allowed him to continue.

“This is not the first time we’ve seen it and the excuses are always the same. Effectively, unless we have either a Palestinian state, independent and sovereign – which Netanyahu and virtually the entire Israeli leadership has ruled out – or a single state solution, this is going to benefit no-one.”

There’s uninterrupted lie number two. In 2009 Netanyahu said:

“But, friends, we must state the whole truth here. The truth is that in the area of our homeland, in the heart of our Jewish Homeland, now lives a large population of Palestinians. We do not want to rule over them. We do not want to run their lives. We do not want to force our flag and our culture on them. In my vision of peace, there are two free peoples living side by side in this small land, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect, each with its flag, anthem and government, with neither one threatening its neighbor’s security and existence.”

Next Ali added some defamation (and imaginary mountains) to his rant:Tariq Ali int

“It is tearing apart Israeli society. When you see images of Israeli citizens standing on the mountains and applauding the bombing, you realize how degenerate Israeli society has become.”

The presenter Mark Sanders continued:

“You call them degenerate. No doubt they would say – the Israeli side – that they are trying to defend their country against the aggression.”

Ali: “But I don’t accept that there is an equivalence. When you have Israel with nuclear weapons, with chemical weapons, with the sixth largest army in the world and Hamas – a weak liberation organization with very little – you cannot accept that there is an equivalence. There is no equivalence and when countries are occupied they fight back, regardless of who the occupier is and that’s what we’ve been seeing in Palestine.”

Mark Sanders did not bother to inform viewers of “weak” Hamas’ financial backing from Qatar or its supply of military grade weapons from Iran and elsewhere.

So what did BBC audiences learn from this interview? They were told that the Gaza Strip is “occupied”, that Israelis are “degenerate” (a statement which also appears in the synopsis to the website version), that the Israeli leadership rejects the two-state solution, that Hamas had nothing to do with the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers on June 12th and that the incident was used by Israel as a pretext to attack Gaza (that claim too appears in the synopsis of the website version). They were also informed – by means of the placard which the BBC allowed to serve as backdrop to this entire interview – that Israelis are “baby killers”: a classic antisemitic theme.

Goodness knows what this item would have looked like if the BBC didn’t supposedly have editorial guidelines on accuracy, impartiality, harm and offence in place. 

BBC turns political activists into “aid workers”

A report entitled “Libyans held for ‘sex attack’ on Britons in Benghazi“, dated March 29th 2013, appears on the Africa and Middle East pages of the BBC News website. In that report the women attacked are repeatedly described by the BBC as “aid workers”. 

“Two Libyans have been arrested over claims they sexually assaulted three British aid workers earlier this week.

The workers were apparently abducted at a checkpoint near the city of Benghazi and held for hours before being freed on Wednesday.” […]

“The group of aid workers were taken to the Turkish consulate in Benghazi after their release. British officials said they had now returned to the UK.”

Benghazi attack

The Aid Worker Security Database defines aid workers as follows: [emphasis added]

” “Aid workers” are defined as the employees and associated personnel of not for profit aid agencies (both national and international staff) that provide material and technical assistance in humanitarian relief contexts. These include various locally contracted staff (e.g., transportation, security, etc.). This includes both relief and multi-mandated (relief and development) organizations: NGOs, the International Movement of the Red Cross/Red Crescent, donor agencies and the UN agencies belonging to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee on Humanitarian Affairs (FAO, OCHA, UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP and WHO) plus IOM and UNRWA. The aid worker definition does not include UN peacekeeping personnel, human rights workers, election monitors or purely political, religious, or advocacy organizations.”

The ill-fated eleven vehicle convoy – named “Mavi Marmara” – in which the women concerned were taking part departed from London on February 25th this year, driving through France and Spain to reach Morocco and then continuing through North Africa with the aim of reaching the Gaza Strip. 

Some of the convoy’s organisers and participants have previously taken part in similar ventures and one of them – Sakir Yildirim (also spelt Yildirm) from Bristol – was aboard the IHH ship the Mavi Marmara in May 2010 when it tried to breach the maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip and some of its Turkish passengers attacked Israeli soldiers boarding the ship. According to a BBC report from the time, Yildirim is a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. 

Sakir and Cliff in Turkey

Sakir Yildirim(L) & Cliff Hanley of Bristol PSC in Turkey, before boarding the Mavi Marmara in 2010

As can be clearly discerned from pictures published by the convoy’s supporters before and after its departure from the UK, the inefficient – and apparently badly organized – overland transport of “children’s educational equipment and toys, IT equipment, and medical equipment” (according to the organisers) is obviously secondary to the convoy’s political aims. 

Apparently the BBC is unable – or unwilling – to differentiate between genuine aid workers and political activists supporting a campaign to promote those involved in terrorist activity against Israeli civilians as ‘political prisoners’. 

The misappropriation of terms such as “humanitarian organization”, “human rights” or “aid worker” is an unfortunately common practice in the circles of anti-Israel campaigners seeking to co-opt the publicly acceptable image afforded by such terms to their political campaigns. It is regrettable that the BBC compromises its own reputation and breaches editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality by engaging in the same practice.

The assault of female members of the convoy in Libya is horrific enough as it is: there is no need for the BBC to embellish the story by erroneously depicting the women and the group with which they were travelling as “aid workers”. 

BBC’s Kevin Connolly: Hamas missiles are “antiquated”

If readers would like to hear a compilation of the themes which BBC coverage of Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’ has been furiously promoting, then the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 on Monday, November 19th had it all condensed into a few minutes. It can be heard here for a limited period of time.

Start with the news-reader who declares that “More than 90 Palestinians are believed to have died since Israel began its bombardment of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday” – without stating how many of those were terrorists.

Next, scroll on to 7:51 minutes and hear Vine’s introduction in which he promotes the targeted killing of Ahmed Jabari as the start of the escalation and unquestioningly parrots Hamas casualty figures:

“Hamas claims the attacks have claimed the lives of 90 civilians.”

Figures released by B’Tselem on November 19th state that out of a total of 105 casualties (up to the time of the report’s writing) in the Gaza Strip, forty one were civilians. Those figures do not take into account how many of those civilians were killed by shortfall of terrorist rockets. 

Next, hear how Vine shoehorns in two totally ridiculous, but popular, themes into one sentence: [emphasis added]

“Or is Israel in the wrong? Are they in fact the side which is most guilty of provocation by continuing to build homes in the West Bank much to the ire of the Palestinians and could this show of strength all be down to the fact that elections are looming in Israel?”

But it is Vine’s first guest – the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly – who gives us a real insight into the received wisdoms of BBC thought on Israel, from 9:30 minutes.

Connolly again repeats the claim that “the death toll now has risen to 91” without distinguishing between combatants and civilians. He goes on to say: [all emphasis added]

“There’s very little shelter for civilians in Gaza. You know people don’t have bunkers. They don’t have air raid shelters. There’s no infrastructure to protect the civilian population although we think there is an infrastructure to protect the Hamas leadership.”

Connolly then recounts a conversation with a doctor in Gaza:

“She said she felt that she was surrounded by death in Gaza. On this side [Israel] there is anxiety – there’s no question about that – there is fear. There have been some rockets landing in southern Israeli towns this morning, but I think we have to be clear about this – that there is an asymmetry in the casualty figures. 91 dead now on the Gazan side. We think 3 dead on the Israeli side. And there is colossal asymmetry in military hardware deployed here as well.

You know Israel has the most sophisticated and the most powerful weapons of war and they are really terrifying when they’re unleashed. Hamas is of course unleashing as much violence as it can, so the intention is there, but by comparison its missile stocks are antiquated and not nearly as powerful as the ordnance the Israelis are able to use.”

What Connolly ‘forgets’ to point out of course is that Hamas’ weapons are aimed exclusively at civilians. 

In response to a question from Vine, he continues:

“The situation in Gaza is complex. The occupied territories ..certainly you know Gaza…is territory that Israel captured from Egypt in the 1967 war.”

No mention, of course, of how Egypt got hold of it in the first place.

“It [Israel] did withdraw from Gaza. It took its settlers out. It sort of sealed the border. When you go down to Gaza now you go through extraordinary security. They built a wall – the Israelis – and a kind of whole machinery of security there to protect themselves from the threat of suicide bombing coming out of the Gaza Strip, so from the Israeli side the Gaza Strip feels hermetically sealed. Erm..it’s very crowded, life there is very intense generally and there is a huge sense of militancy where…you know…Fatah – a secular organisation- is the most powerful Palestinian group in the West Bank. In Gaza it’s Hamas. They’re much more religious. They grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood and they have a passionate belief in what they would call resistance to the Zionist enemy – to Israel –but which of course Israel sees and the Israeli civilians see as …err…the unceasing …err…sending of rockets over the border at Israeli civilian politicians…err…populations. 

And one of the triggers of this, Jeremy, has been that Ahmed Jabari – the man you talked about there – one of these powerful Hamas commanders: he was the father of the Hamas rocket programme and under him the rockets have gone from the kind of things that a couple of guys were welding together with bits of drain pipe and homemade explosives to much more sophisticated hardware which he masterminded…erm…an import trail from Iran to bring to Gaza. So Israel felt that the threat was becoming more dangerous and that he personally was the man making it more dangerous. This all started with him being taken out – in military jargon – and that’s why Israel targeted him.” 

Responding to a question from Vine about whether it is correct to make a  connection to the Israeli elections, Connolly goes on: 

“Yeah, I think we should is the simple truth. I mean I think from Binyamin Netanyahu’s point of view, if he were able to show that he had eradicated or really, really substantially degraded the threat of rockets from Gaza then that would be something very useful to take into an election campaign. Israelis are going to vote in about two months’ time and there’s no question that that would be a political advantage to him. I think for that reason he might hesitate to launch a ground operation – an incursion – into Gaza. All the talk here is will Israel send troops in or not. I think…you know…Israel looks at these things very differently than international public opinion looks at them. International public opinion is very focused on civilian casualties. Israel says, though, civilian casualties in Gaza are high because Hamas hides its weapons among the civilian population, so a lot of Israelis feel that if they can just stick to this operation until it’s carried to its logical end, they can really, really damage Hamas’ military potential and if Netanyahu can do that without incurring too many Israeli casualties then …you know…it’s a brutal political calculation, but it’s real, Jeremy,… then that would be, I think, an advantage to him. And of course he is an elected politician – that simply has to be in his mind.”

And if all that wasn’t enough, you can continue listening to the programme as Jeremy Vine hosts the secretary of an organisation dedicated to Israel’s destruction, renowned for its dabbling in antisemitism and for its support for brutal dictatorships and terrorists. 

When, in 2009, the BBC hosted Nick Griffin on ‘Question Time’, it responded to the significant public outrage by defending its decision as part of the process of ‘due impartiality’, on the grounds that the BNP had made electoral gains in the elections to the European Parliament. 

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, however, is not a political party and has crossed no ‘electoral threshold’. In fact, judging from its dismal membership numbers, the British public emphatically rejects its message and its methods. It is curious, therefore, that the BBC should feel the need to provide a platform for a terror-enabling and supporting fringe grouplet such as the PSC.