Another Israeli election, another BBC claim of a ‘shift to the right’

On April 8th a filmed report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman was posted on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page under the headline “How far will Israel shift to the right?”.

The accompanying synopsis tells BBC audiences that:

“Israelis go to the polls on Tuesday to choose a new government.

It has come down to a race between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, a former military chief of staff.

Mr Netanyahu has faced accusations that he fostered racism in the campaign, after he oversaw the creation of an electoral alliance involving a party that calls for the expulsion of most Arabs from Israel.

Our Middle East Correspondent Tom Bateman reports, starting in the divided city of Hebron, in the occupied West Bank.

Within the city of about 200,000 Palestinians, a few hundred Jews live in settlements that are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

Like that synopsis, the report itself – introduced as “Israel’s election and the far right” – made no effort to explain to BBC audiences that Jewish residents of Hebron live there under the terms of a twenty-two year old internationally supervised agreement between Israel and the PLO under which the then Israeli prime minister – one Binyamin Netanyahu – agreed to redeploy Israeli forces from 80% of the city and hand control over to the Palestinian Authority, thus making the city “divided” with Palestinian consent.

Lacking that essential background information, the view audiences got from Bateman’s report was inevitably distorted. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

“Last month, settlers celebrated the Jewish holiday of Purim in the divided city of Hebron, in the occupied West Bank. Several hundred of Israel’s most ideologically driven settlers live here, guarded by soldiers, in the city of 200,000 Palestinians.”

Bateman: “I mean on one level it’s just a party, it’s people dressing up and having a good time. But like so many things here, it just takes on a different meaning because this is so contested, this is such a tense place, it becomes about an expression of identity by people who feel that they under siege. For the Palestinians it feels like a complete provocation.”

Having heard from a man in a van that “again and again, every generation, there are nations that are trying to destroy the Jews”, Bateman went on to opine on “religious resolve (whatever that may be) and nationalism”.

Bateman: “That explains why religious resolve and nationalism are so much on display here. Those things are a powerful part of Israeli politics. And in this election, the extremes have been courted by the Israeli prime minister. An anti-Arab party called Jewish Power. They didn’t want to talk to us.”

Having tried to talk to a man in the street, Bateman went on:

Bateman: “His party wants to annex the occupied West Bank and also expel what it calls ‘enemy Arabs’ from Israel. Some of the Israelis dress up as Palestinians. So this lady here is wearing a Palestinian [sic] head scarf and carrying a plastic AK-47.”

Viewers were then told that:

“Benjamin Netanyahu wants to be elected for a fifth term. He faces corruption claims and a serious challenger: former military chief Benny Gantz. Mr Gantz is leading a political alliance in the centre ground. It accuses Mr Netanyahu of dividing Israelis and says he hasn’t been tough enough on security.”

Bateman then refocused audience attentions on Hebron, again failing to provide relevant context such as the consequences of Palestinian terrorism on freedom of movement for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Bateman: “Virtually all of the Palestinians are staying indoors while the parade goes on. Palestinian movement is heavily controlled in this part of the city, especially around the parade.”

Woman: “I feel like their lives are much more relaxed than ours. Apart from that, you can see they can do what they like. They have total freedom in the area and in all the areas that are shut down like this one. We feel sad.”

Bateman: “So what’s happened to Israel’s left wing? Well we found some of them in the market in Tel Aviv. […] I followed around the Labour Party leader Avi Gabbay. They can drum up a bit of a crowd in the market here. But the problem for the Labour Party leader is he could be looking at Labour’s worst poll ratings in this country’s history.”

Making no effort whatsoever to give viewers a real explanation of why that is the case, Bateman went on to push the core agenda behind his report.

Bateman: “After a decade in office, Benjamin Netanyahu has changed the conversation in Israel. For example the two-state solution with the Palestinians is off the agenda for either party that can win.”

In other words, Bateman would have BBC audiences believe that disillusion among Israeli voters and politicians alike with the belief that a two-state solution can be achieved is entirely down to Netanyahu having “changed the conversation” since 2009 and has nothing whatsoever to do with years of Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli citizens, Palestinian Authority glorification and rewarding of terror, Palestinian refusal to accept numerous previous offers of precisely such a solution or the Hamas-Fatah split which for over a decade has made any agreement “with the Palestinians” impossible.

Following a conversation with Ayelet Shaked of the ‘New Right’ in which she apparently did not succeed in persuading Bateman that Israeli democracy is sufficiently robust to include a broad range of opinions across the political spectrum, he continued with promotion of unsupported claims from unidentified commentators.

Bateman: “Israel has been taking a look at itself in this election. Some see the move rightwards over the last decade as decisive now. They see ideas that were once on the margins a few decades ago becoming more and more mainstream. Like the possibility of Israel annexing parts of the occupied West Bank.”

Bateman has apparently never heard of the ‘Alon Plan’ proposal of annexation of parts of Judea & Samaria devised by a Labour movement leader shortly after the Six Day War.

Finally, BBC audiences learned that even if Netanyahu does not win this election and even if a centrist/left coalition forms the next government, Israel has – according to the BBC – nevertheless shifted to the right for one reason alone.

Bateman: “Regardless of the result, there has been a marked shift to the right during Benjamin Netanyahu’s time in office.”

Of course this is by no means the first time that the BBC has used coverage of an election in Israel to promote the notion of a lurch to the right. Once again the lack of understanding by BBC reporters of the inapplicability of their own Eurocentric interpretations of terms such as Left and Right to the Israeli political scene is in evidence. But this time Bateman has managed to avoid any reference to Palestinian actions and choices which have made many Israelis more sceptical of their supposed peace partner’s commitment to the process while squarely placing the blame on the shoulders of the Israeli prime minister.  

Related Articles:

Not Right: why did the BBC get the Israeli elections so wrong?

Reviewing the BBC’s record of reporting on Israeli elections

 

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Happy Purim!

Wishing all our readers celebrating Purim a very happy holiday.

 

BBC Arabic’s tendentious Hebron feature – part one

On February 18th a feature titled “Hebron: One street, two sides” (erroneously dated February 14th) appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

The link leads to an English language BBC Arabic project, a version of which was also promoted on the BBC Arabic website with additional Arabic and Hebrew versions.

The feature commences by showing three separate screens of ‘background information’, including promotion of the BBC’s usual partisan mantra on ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ and portrayal of the subject matter as being all about ‘narratives’.

BBC audiences next reach a screen which offers several short videos reached by clicking on arrows termed “hotspots”. In order to see all eight videos it is necessary to click and drag to rotate the screen.

The eight videos include:

1) A video about a tour in Hebron conducted by Dean Issacharoff of the foreign funded political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’ which is inadequately described thus:

2) A video showing Israeli soldiers being briefed ahead of a Purim procession followed by footage of drunk Israeli residents.

3) A video showing Hebron spokesman Ishai Fleisher in which viewers see the sole superficial mention of the 1997 Hebron Protocol signed by Israel and the PLO.

4) A video about an emergency responder, Ofer Ohana, who notes some of the Palestinian terror attacks that have taken place in Hebron.

5) A video about a 14 year-old girl identified only as Waad who films for an organisation presented as ‘Palestinian Human Rights Defenders’ (PHRD) with no further details of its background and funding.

6) A video about one of the founders of PHRD – Emad (or Imad) Abu Shamsiya – whose footage is used in some of the videos.

7) A video showing some Palestinian youths trying to fly a kite and an unexplained conversation between a Palestinian man and a youth.

8) A video using B’tselem footage showing a confrontation between a Palestinian and an Israeli.

All those videos are taken from two much longer films which can be accessed by clicking on the “film version of this project” on the first screen.

Those films will be discussed in part two of this post.

 

 

BBC’s ‘In Pictures’ portrayal of Purim

The March 18th edition of the BBC News website’s ‘Week in Pictures’ feature – billed “Our selection of some of the most striking news photographs taken around the world this week” – included a photograph captioned:

“Young Jewish men dance around a table as they visit a businessman in London during the annual Jewish holiday of Purim. It commemorates the time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination by the courage of a young Jewish woman called Esther.”

That image is one of a series of photographs of Purim celebrations in London taken by the same photographer. Pictures from that series which the BBC could have chosen to portray the Purim holiday celebrations – but didn’t – include these:

 

 

BBC reveals: 2,500 year-old Jewish text contains ‘negative messages for women’

The BBC website has a ‘Religion & Ethics’ section which includes a page on “featured religions and beliefs“. Included on that page is a link to the section on Judaism and there, under the heading “Holy Days”, BBC audiences can read about PurimJumbo Hamentashen

Curiously, much of the (uncredited) information there bears a remarkable resemblance to that provided on a website called ‘Judaism 101’ and in fact a link to that site – as well as to Wikipedia (yes, really) – appears on the page. But the BBC has also added some interpretations of its own to the Purim story and has made the shocking discovery that a 2,500 year-old text contains “negative messages for women”.

negative messages for women

Now of course the question of whether or not there is actually any educational or intellectual value in applying modern-day mores to a millennia-old traditional story is a debate in itself, but if the BBC has chosen to go down that dubious route, one would at least expect it to be consistent in that practice.

So we might for example perhaps expect to read some BBC criticism on the topic of the “negative messages” for young adults conveyed by the claim of a virgin pregnancy in its section dealing with the Christmas story or a science-based deconstruction of the notion of resurrection in its page on Easter – but we don’t. Likewise, explanation of any “negative messages” conveyed by the practice of animal sacrifice does not appear in sections relating to the Santeria faith or the Muslim holiday of Eid el Adha.

But at least the BBC is consistent in showing its inconsistency – and in providing Purim laughs.

Related Articles:

Happy Purim! (and the BBC moves Megillat Esther)

Happy Purim! (and the BBC moves Megillat Esther)

Purim

Wishing all readers celebrating Purim a very happy holiday. 

Purim is of course a festival marked with plenty of humour. The BBC has – perhaps unwittingly – contributed some laughs with its attempt to ‘do’ Purim in an article – placed in the Travel section of its website – which makes a clear case for writers not to indulge in unfamiliar alcohol when committed to accuracy. 

“…there are three things you are supposed to do on Purim: read the Megillah (the relevant section of the Talmud, the central religious Jewish text)…”

Chag Sameach!