Weekend long read

1) At the Times of Israel David Horovitz tells the story of “The path of a piece of shrapnel: A minor story that made no headlines“.

“Late on Monday evening, at the height of the latest round of indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel by Hamas and other Islamist terror groups in neighboring Gaza, one rocket got through Israel’s remarkable Iron Dome missile defense system and landed directly on a house in the southern working-class town of Netivot. […]

It brought down the ceiling in one of the bedrooms, it smashed a large hole in an outside wall, it devastated the living room, it destroyed furniture, it injured the family dog, whose blood was still on the floor when the TV crew entered.

The story played prominently on Israeli TV news late Monday […], though it made little international impact, unsurprisingly, since mercifully nobody was killed.”

2) At the Jerusalem Post, Khaled Abu Toameh takes a look at the background to Hamas’ current preference for a ceasefire.

“For now, Hamas prefers to continue reaping the fruits of its “achievements” rather than engage in another major military confrontation with Israel.

These “achievements” include the delivery of the $15 million Qatari grant to the Strip last week. Hamas has been celebrating the Qatari move – which was approved by Israel – as a major win. It also sees the Qatari cash as a direct result of its weekly protests along the border with Israel, which began last March. Hamas leaders feel they have more to lose from a war with Israel, especially in the wake of ongoing efforts to ease the many restrictions in Gaza. […]

The monetary delivery was due to an agreement between Qatar and Israel to reach a long-term truce in the Strip and prevent another war. It was the first instalment of $90 million that the emirate has pledged to send in the next six months. Hamas does not want to risk losing the remainder of these funds.”

3) The Washington Institute provides a video and a transcript of a discussion with Ambassador Nathan Sales on the subject of Iranian terror sponsorship.

“Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Period. It has held that dubious distinction for many years now and shows no sign of relinquishing the title.

To the contrary, the regime in Tehran continues to provide hundreds of millions of dollars every year to terrorists across the world. It does this, despite ongoing economic turmoil that’s impoverishing many of its people. The beneficiaries of this misbegotten largesse range from Hezbollah in Lebanon, to Hamas in Gaza, to violent rejectionist groups in the West Bank, to the Houthis in Yemen, to hostile militias in Iraq and Syria.

Let me give you some numbers. This may sound hard to believe, but Iran provides Hezbollah alone some $700 million a year. It gives another $100 million to various Palestinian terrorist groups. When you throw in the money provided to other terrorists, the total comes close to one billion dollars.”

4) The ITIC has documented “Legitimization of Terrorism by Fatah and the Palestinian Authority: Glorification of the Murder of the Israeli Athletes at the Munich Olympic Games“.

“On September 5, 2018, the anniversary of the terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics was marked, in which 11 Israelis were murdered. The Fatah Movement, which carried out the terrorist attack, mentioned the anniversary of the event in posts posted on its official Facebook pages. These posts glorified the attack (“a high-quality military operation”) and praised its perpetrators. The terrorists who carried out the murder are referred to in the post of the Fatah Movement in Nablus as “the heroes of the Munich operation;” and in the post of the Fatah Movement in Bethlehem they are referred to as “heroes of the Fatah Movement, sons of Yasser [Arafat].” The portrayal of the terrorist attack in Munich is also expressed favorably in a Palestinian Authority history textbook, in which the murder is described as an act carried out by Fedayeen (who sacrifice their lives by carrying out a military operation) with the aim of “attacking Israeli interests abroad”.”

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Superficial BBC News reporting from Qatar hinders understanding

Plucky: Having or showing determined courage in the face of difficulties.”

The article promoted by the BBC’s Middle East bureau chief in that Tweet appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 5th under the headline “Qatar cash and cows help buck Gulf boycott“. Written by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell after a visit to Doha, the report includes a video about a dairy farm in Qatar in which BBC audiences are told that: [emphasis added]

“The cows were shipped, and even flown into Qatar when it was cut off by its Arab neighbours. They accused it of supporting terrorism – which it denies.”

In the article itself readers find the following:

“On 5 June last year, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off all diplomatic, trade and transport links to Qatar.

They accused it of supporting terrorism, stirring up regional instability and seeking close ties with their arch-rival, Iran.

Qatar denied that and refused to comply with a long list of demands, including closing its Al Jazeera news network. […]

“The main thing that the blockading states are aiming for [is] a power consolidation in the region,” Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, tells me.

They started to draw the picture of terrorist on anyone who is different from them.””

The exact same messaging is seen in the synopsis to a filmed report that also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 5th.

“Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani says “they started to draw the picture of terrorist on anyone who is different from them.””

The same statement opens the filmed report itself.

So what information were BBC audiences given that would help them judge whether there is any truth in that repeatedly promoted claim, according to which accusations of support for terrorism are merely a smear because Qatar is “different”?”

Knell’s portrayal of the issue begins with a year-old story.

“Qatar blames the start of last year’s crisis on what it says was a cyber-attack on its state-run news agency, which published comments purportedly from the ruling emir.

He was quoted as expressing sympathy for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and claiming that Donald Trump might not last long as US president.

However, analysts say the roots of the disagreement go back much further.

“This was an issue that was kept bottled for 20 years but it just came out in the open a year ago,” says Ali Shihabi, the Saudi founder of the Washington-based, Arabia Foundation.

He refers to tapes that emerged after the fall of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 which appeared to show the Qatari emir’s father plotting against Saudi royals when he was ruler.

Mr Shihabi says that Qatar reneged on agreements to stop payments to dissidents in other Arab countries and gave them a platform on Al Jazeera.”

Who those “dissidents” are and what they ‘dissented’ remains unclear in Knell’s report.

Significantly, Knell made no effort whatsoever to inform BBC audiences of Qatar’s record of negligence on terror financing. Neither did she bother to tell audiences about Qatar’s selective definitions of terrorism, its hosting of senior Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood figures or Qatari leaders’ ties to a terror financier.

As one Middle East analyst put it earlier this year:

“Qatar is on a charm offensive designed to portray itself as a victim of rivalries in which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their allies have isolated the emirate. […]

The problem with Qatar’s attempt to rebrand itself as the moderate state being victimized by Saudi Arabia is that Qatar has never come clean about its support for Hamas and terror financing. “Qatar, a longtime U.S. ally, has for many years openly financed Hamas, a group that continues to undermine regional stability,” U.S. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said at the Center for a New American Security in March 2014. He said that fundraisers for Al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, then known as Nusra Front, had operated in Kuwait and Qatar.”

Yolande Knell’s superficial reporting clearly does nowhere near enough to enhance the ability of the BBC’s funding public to look beyond that charm offensive. Quite the opposite in fact: it provides back wind for Qatar’s rebranding campaign.

Related Articles:

Qatar’s expulsion of Hamas officials not newsworthy for the BBC

Superficial BBC Radio 4 reporting on Qatar funding of Hamas

Filling in the blanks in BBC reports on Hamas, Qatar and Iran

BBC media editor’s softball interview with fellow journalist sold audiences short

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the Jerusalem Post Lahav Harkov highlights an issue ignored by the BBC in all its generous coverage of the US’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas claims that he is a defender of Christian Arabs in areas under his control. He repeatedly said that Jerusalem is a Muslim and Christian – but not Jewish – holy city in his speech to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation last week.

But the Palestinians’ track record, even before putting a damper on Christmas this year, should leave Christians skeptical.

In 1950, the Christian population of the Bethlehem area was 86%, according to the National Catholic Reporter. Today, it’s only 12%, and Christians are only 2% of the Palestinian population, even though they were more than twice that a generation ago. The situation in Gaza, controlled by the terrorist group Hamas, is even worse. When Hamas took control in 2006, there were 6,000 Christians, and as of a year ago, there were 1,100. In Israel, the Christian population has stayed mostly stable at around 2%, growing by about 5,000 in the past 20 years.”

2) Writing at the Globe and Mail, Matti Friedman describes the Jerusalem that BBC audiences never see.

“When President Donald Trump announced on Dec. 6 that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy here, Arab leaders called for “days of rage” and a chorus of Western observers predicted an explosion. The predictions were predictable; Jerusalem is always said to be on the brink of catastrophe, and headlines are always reporting “tensions.” […]

After Mr. Trump’s announcement, amid warnings of “explosive” repercussions, I got e-mails from friends abroad, wondering whether I was worried, or whether I was safe. That Friday, a crowd of reporters gathered at the Old City’s Damascus Gate to document the violence that was supposed to erupt. But little happened; the protesters were outnumbered by journalists, and everyone went home. There weren’t spontaneous mass celebrations on the Jewish side or mass disturbances on the Arab side. The past week has been fairly normal.”

3) Seth Frantzman of the Jerusalem Post investigates Qatari investment in Gaza.

“In October 2014, in the aftermath of the Gaza war (Operation Protective Edge), the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) estimated that more than 100,000 homes had been damaged or destroyed in the fighting, affecting 600,000 people. A total of $5.4 billion was pledged toward reconstruction efforts at an international conference in Egypt.

Two years later, only 51% of the pledged money had been disbursed. According to research by the Brookings Institution, Qatar was one of the biggest spenders investing in Gaza, with $216 million sent to the Strip by December 2016, part of a budget of $1.4b. it has pledged and spent in the last five years on Palestinians. […]

Israel has long known that cement imported to Gaza is diverted to be used by Hamas for building terrorist infrastructure, including tunnels. In a May 2016 speech, then-Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold said that for every 100 sacks of cement imported to the Gaza Strip, “only five or six are transferred to civilians.” He said that of the 4 million tons of building materials transferred to the Strip between October 2015 and May 2016, some of it had been “seized and used to build new attack tunnels.”

Qatar’s role in Gaza’s reconstruction puts it in a bind. Since June 2017 its neighbors in the Gulf have severed relations, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Doha’s support for Hamas is a central dispute between it and Riyadh.”

4) Israel’s state archivist Yaakov Lozowick writes about (and links to) the maps used by the British military in its Palestine campaign a century ago.

“Should we visit Tel Aviv? The name of the British map is Jaffa, and about the only part of modern Tel Aviv you’ll find is Sarona, and miles to the north the tiny Arab village of Sheikh Muannis, where Tel Aviv University is today. Also, the map helpfully notes the sand dunes at the center of today’s Tel Aviv.

But wait. That’s actually a bit odd. Tel Aviv was founded in 1909; at least a small version of it ought to have been on the British military maps printed in May 1917? Well, I recommend looking at the bottom right corner of the map, where it says that it’s a reprint made in May 1917, from… The Palestine Exploration Fund maps, surveyed in 1878!

This makes these maps even more interesting, because they tell us two very interesting things. The first is that when the British military map-makers needed to prepare maps with which to conquer Palestine, the most recent ones they had at hand were 39 years old, but they weren’t troubled because they knew that not much had changed between 1787 and 1917. Moreover, they were able to use the maps because their assumption about the limited change was basically correct. Here and there some changes had been made on the ground, such as the founding of the Jaffa suburb of Tel Aviv; but these changes weren’t significant enough to bother the military planners.”

BBC media editor’s softball interview with fellow journalist sold audiences short

Back in June BBC Radio 4 aired an edition of ‘The Media Show’ which is still available online and includes an item (from 00:46 here) which is described as follows in the synopsis:

“Saudi Arabia and her allies have demanded that Qatar shuts down a number of media outlets as a condition of ending the crisis in the region. David Hearst is editor in chief of Middle East Eye. Crispin Blunt MP is Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.”

Readers may recall that at the time a number of Arab states issued a list of demands (which was later modified) to Qatar that included:

“…stipulations that Doha close the broadcaster al-Jazeera, drastically scale back cooperation with Iran, remove Turkish troops from Qatar’s soil, end contact with groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and submit to monthly external compliance checks. […]

…the Saudi-led alliance regards the Arabic wing of al-Jazeera, the most widely watched broadcaster in the Arab world, as a propaganda tool for Islamists that also undermines support for their governments. The list of demands also called for other Doha-supported news outlets to be shut, including the New Arab and Middle East Eye.

Other key demands mapped out by Saudi include Qatar severing all ties with terrorist groups, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, al-Qaida and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.” 

The framing of the story by ‘The Media Show’, however, portrayed it solely as an issue of press freedom and made no effort to examine whether or not there was any substance to the Saudi claims concerning the named media organisations – including ‘The New Arab’, founded by Azmi Bishara  and Al Jazeera.

Presenter Amol Rajan – who is the BBC’s media editor – introduced the item as follows:

Rajan: “But first more on a story we’ve been covering on ‘The Media Show’. It’s the demand by Saudi Arabia that Qatar shuts down a number of media outlets. Qatar is currently being isolated by its neighbours who claim the country supports terrorism. The closure of the Qatari funded TV network Al Jazeera is near the top of Saudi Arabia’s list of demands to resolve the crisis. Saudi Arabia says Al Jazeera is Qatari propaganda; a charge denied last week on this programme by Giles Trendle, the acting managing director of Al Jazeera English.”

After listeners heard a recording of Giles Trendle of Al Jazeera English insisting that his outfit “cover[s] the world without favouring any point of view”, Rajan continued:

Rajan: “Since that interview we’ve learned that it’s not just Al Jazeera that Saudi Arabia and her allies want shut down. In fact some of the media organisations on the list are based in the UK. One is ‘The New Arab’ and the other is ‘Middle East Eye’ whose editor in chief is David Hearst and he’s with me now.”

Listeners then heard former Guardian employee David Hearst – who never had much of a problem rubbing shoulders with Islamists – insist that “we’re totally independent of Qatar” before Rajan asked him “why have they targeted “Middle East Eye’?”.

Hearst: “Well one of the things that’s going on is…well the business model of ‘Middle East Eye’ is that we sell our journalism to people who translate it into Arabic and other languages. And these regimes, unfortunately, do not want their citizens learning about what’s going on.”

Rajan’s next question was “who funds ‘Middle East Eye?”.

Hearst: “So, we fund it ourselves. And we…ah…we sell our journalism to people who translate it. It’s not a big operation…it’s not some sort of shadowy organization. It’s twenty journalists in London. It’s a British-based company and it’s about 700 contributors. And it’s been growing because it is a space in which people can actually discuss real issues and we actually bite every hand. Actually if you look at our coverage…ah….we’re critical of the Qataris, we’ve had really good reports from Kurdish areas of Turkey so you can’t say we’re funded by the AKP.”

Rajan then asked Hearst whether “the Saudis basically contend that you are sort of essentially Qatari agents”. In his response Hearst raised the legitimate issue of state censorship of the media in many Arab countries while avoiding answering that question directly. When later asked if the Qatari government had ever asked him “to adjust an editorial line”, Hearst’s answer was negative.

Having introduced Crispin Blunt, Rajan stated:

Rajan: “It’s completely unacceptable, isn’t it, for another country to demand the closure of a UK-based news source.”

Later on Rajan asked Blunt “why is the house of Saud targeting media organisations?” with Blunt replying that he does not know but opining that Al Jazeera English’s editorial standards “look pretty similar to the BBC” and that the outlet “looks pretty impeccable”. Admitting that he knows “less” about Al Jazeera Arabic , Blunt went on to compare Qatari funding of Al Jazeera with BBC funding by British tax-payers via the licence fee, again claiming that Al Jazeera’s editorial standards are similar to those of the BBC.

Listeners subsequently heard Rajan assert that the Saudi demands would “make it even harder to cover the Middle East properly” and after Rajan portrayed Hearst as a champion of free speech, the latter replied:

Hearst: “…the people who want to close us down believe in sort of weaponisation of the media. They believe the media is an instrument and it is a lever – it doesn’t exist in its own right.”

Remarkably, Amol Rajan failed to make any effort to question Hearst on the issue of his own organisation’s use of the media as “an instrument”.

At no point in this item were listeners were told that the ‘Middle East Eye’ stable of contributors includes political activists infamous for their “weaponisation” of the media such as the occasional Guardian and BBC contributor Ben White, the anti-Israel blogger Richard Silverstein, the former ‘Russel Tribunal’ coordinator and Al Jazeera contributor Frank Barat, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Kamel Hawwash, ‘Palestine Chronicle’ founder Ramzi Baroud, the Palestinian Return Centre’s Sameh Habeeb who has been linked to Muslim Brotherhood campaigns and also produces the ‘Palestine Telegraph’ and even ‘CAGE’ activist Moazzam Begg and well-known Hamas supporter Azzam Tamimi.

Neither did Amol Rajan ask Hearst why the ‘Middle East Eye’ website was originally registered by a person – Adlin Adnan – connected to the Hamas linked charity ‘Interpal‘ or who actually owns the company and why the only name on its official records is that of Jamal Awn Jamal Bessano – a Dutch national of Palestinian/Kuwaiti origin with previous links to both Al Jazeera and a Hamas TV station in Lebanon.

At no point did Rajan address the topic of the type of content produced by ‘Middle East Eye’ which includes sympathetic coverage of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood such as the following anodyne portrayal of Yusuf Qaradawi by David Hearst himself:

“Rival preachers are cast as terrorists – but not because their interpretation of Islam is more extreme. It’s their moderation the Saudi clerics fear.

One of the objects of Emirati (and Israeli) ire comes in the form of an eminent Muslim Brotherhood scholar, Yousef al-Qaradawi, who lives in Doha. Qaradawi is no social liberal. He is not about to embrace homosexuality or Western feminism. But it is not those qualities that have put him on the Saudi terror list.

In May 2008, Qaradawi issued a fatwa permitting the building of churches in Muslim countries. He said it is allowed in Islam and Muslims have to respect and protect them.”

As we see listeners to this edition of ‘The Media Show’ were told a story framed as an assault on media freedom that by no means provided them with the full range of information concerning either the issue itself or the media organisation that is its focus. David Hearst was at the time doing the rounds at various media outlets to present his side of the story and Amol Rajan’s softball interviewing refrained from making any real effort to challenge Hearst’s narrative.

Would BBC audiences have gone away with a better understanding of this story? Quite the opposite.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part one

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part two

Superficial BBC Radio 4 reporting on Qatar funding of Hamas

Qatar’s expulsion of Hamas officials not newsworthy for the BBC

BBC Business airbrushes abuse of foreign workers in Qatar

Op-ed at UK site edited by former Guardian editor claims Israel intentionally murders children  (UK Media Watch) 

 

 

 

Filling in the blanks in BBC reports on Hamas, Qatar and Iran

As readers may recall, while early BBC News website coverage of the rift between Qatar and several other Arab states did clarify that one of Saudi Arabia’s demands was for Qatar to cut ties with Hamas, it did not inform BBC audiences of Qatar’s reported demand that a number of Hamas officials leave that country.

Yolande Knell later produced two reports on the topic of Qatari funding of Hamas which made vague, brief references to that subject.

“Meanwhile, some top Hamas figures living in exile in Doha have moved away to ease pressure on their patron.” BBC Radio 4, 15/6/17

“Many leaders of the group [Hamas] – including its former head, Khaled Meshaal, have been living in luxurious exile in Doha.

Now as Hamas seeks to ease pressure on its patron, several have reportedly left at Qatar’s request.” BBC News website, 20/6/17

As was noted here when the story broke:

Among those reportedly asked to leave [Qatar] was Saleh al Arouri – the organiser of Hamas operations in Judea & Samaria who was previously based in Turkey and was designated by the US Treasury in 2015. Arouri is said to have relocated to Malaysia or Lebanon.”

At the beginning of this month al Arouri made an appearance in Beirut.

“A senior Hamas terrorist believed by Israel to have planned the 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank was spotted publicly in Lebanon’s capital Beirut for the first time since he was expelled from Qatar in June.

In photos published Wednesday, Saleh al-Arouri can be seen meeting with senior Iranian official Hossein Amir Abdollahian — a former deputy foreign minister — and a number of other members of Hamas, among them senior spokesman Osama Hamdan and the terror group’s representative in Lebanon, Ali Barka. […]

After his expulsion from Qatar in June, al-Arouri moved to Lebanon, where he is being hosted by the Hezbollah terror group in its Dahieh stronghold in southern Beirut, Channel 2 reported last month.

Citing Palestinian sources, the report said that Arouri and two other senior Hamas figures have relocated to the Hezbollah-dominated neighborhood in the Lebanese capital, an area heavily protected with checkpoints on every access road.”

Meanwhile, on August 5th the BBC News website published a report about the Iranian president’s inauguration:

“Dozens of world dignitaries attended Mr Rouhani’s inauguration at Iran’s parliament, reflecting an easing in Iran’s isolation since the nuclear deal.

Guests included EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the chairman of the North Korean parliament, Kim Yong-nam, signalling a growing closeness between Tehran and Pyongyang particularly over defence matters.”

The BBC did not however report that the inauguration’s guest list also included Hamas officials.

“A senior Hamas delegation arrived in Tehran on Friday in a bid to bolster the relationship with the Islamic Republic.

The visit included senior Hamas figure Izzat al-Rishq, currently based in Qatar, and head of the Hamas administration Saleh al-Arouri. They were formally invited to the swearing-in ceremony of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is beginning his second term in office.”

That Hamas delegation apparently also met with IRGC representatives.

“Senior members of the Hamas terror group met on Monday in Iran with representatives of the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to Arabic media reports.

A high-level Hamas delegation arrived in Tehran on Friday in order to attend the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and to “turn a new page in bilateral relations” between the two sides, according to a statement by Hamas.

This is the first Hamas visit to Iran since the group elected new leadership earlier in 2017. The rapprochement between Hamas and Iran is reportedly being facilitated by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which is supported by Tehran.

The delegation consisted of Hamas political bureau members Ezzat al-Resheq, Saleh Arouri, Zaher Jabarin, and Osama Hamdan.

During its stay in Iran, the group met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday, as well as a number of other senior Iranian officials. […]

Hamas also needs to re-establish ties with Iran, as its current top backer Qatar is under fire from Gulf allies for supporting the Palestinian terror group.”

At the end of that August 5th BBC report on Rouhani’s inauguration audiences were told that:

“Last month, the US state department accused Iran of undermining stability, security and prosperity in the Middle East.

It criticised Iran’s support for the Syrian government and groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas and accused it of prolonging the conflict in Yemen by providing support for Houthi rebels.”

Had BBC audiences seen any coverage of Salah al Arouri’s relocation from Qatar to the Hizballah ruled suburb of Beirut and of the Hamas delegation’s visit to Tehran, they would of course be much better placed to understand what lies behind those US State Department statements. 

Related Articles:

The figures behind a story the BBC chooses not report  

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part two

As was noted in part one of this post, BBC News website reporting on the Israeli government’s intention to bar Al Jazeera from reporting and broadcasting in Israel failed to provide any examples of the incitement broadcast by the network that prompted that move – in sharp contrast to its coverage of a recent similar case in the UK.  

The story was also covered in the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on August 6th with presenter James Menendez introducing the item (from 38:30 here) as follows:

Menendez: “The Israeli government says it wants to take the Qatar funded broadcaster Al Jazeera off the air. The move was announced by the country’s communications minister Ayoub Kara at a news conference in Jerusalem today.”

Listeners then heard a voice-over translation of a small part of the minister’s statement.

Voice-over: “We have identified media outlets that do not serve freedom of speech but endanger the security of Israel’s citizens and the main instrument has been Al Jazeera which has actually caused us to lose the best of our sons and has been the source of incitement.”

Menendez: “So what exactly did he mean and why now? Questions for our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Those two questions are obviously crucial to audience understanding of the story but did Tom Bateman actually provide any answers?

Bateman: “The communications minister in this press conference today said that it was about a long-running dispute that they have with the network, accusing it of inciting violence – he said – siding with extremist organisations. And this has been a refrain we’ve heard from the Israeli government repeatedly; not least from the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who last month launched an outspoken attack on the network. He said that it was inciting violence, particularly around the recent security crisis over the holy site of Haram al Sharif – Temple Mount – in the old city of Jerusalem. Now this was a particularly violent episode that lasted a couple of weeks and the prime minister had effectively suggested that the network’s reporting of that event – the events surrounding it – was leading people to violent attacks or at least suggesting that they carry them out.”

Failing to provide any examples of such incitement or to clarify the term “extremist organisations”, Bateman then swiftly moved on to the technicalities.

Bateman: “I mean the specific measures being suggested this afternoon are that the Israeli government will seek to force cable and satellite providers to block the signal in Israel and also to revoke the press accreditation – the press cards – for Al Jazeera reporters in Israel, which will effectively make it impossible for them to work here. The network itself has been covering this extensively today and recently its bureau chief in Jerusalem said that in effect Israel and its prime minister was siding with Arab autocratic states who similarly had sought to ban the network.”

Menendez: “Yeah, that was gonna be my next question. Is this Israel just doing it for its own reasons or is it acting – perhaps not in conjunction – but at least siding with those countries who’ve been demanding that Qatar shut Al Jazeera down? And I’m thinking of course of, you know, countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia.”

Bateman: “Well certainly that would be the view of the network itself who’s, you know, have said that amid this furious diplomatic rift between a number of Sunni Arab states – including Saudi Arabia and Egypt – and Qatar, which of course funds Al Jazeera, that they believe Israel is simply siding with them because it’s politically convenient to do so. I mean its editor also pointed out what he called was the irony of Al Jazeera being one of the very few media networks in the Middle East that is prepared to air, you know, Israeli voices – Israeli government voices – and yet they believe that a self-proclaimed functioning democracy has sided with dictatorships, as he put it.”

Listeners then heard the following garbled portrayal of the core story which obviously did nothing to inform listeners about the kind of incitement broadcast by Al Jazeera and also confused bias and one-sided reporting with the very serious issue of incitement.  

Bateman: “I think the Israeli government view will be simply that it’s had enough and in their view they, well, believe, you know, particularly the Arabic facing service they believe has, you know, been biased against Israel. They will say it’s failed to give, you know, sufficient credence to the Israeli argument – the Israeli side of arguments – in these situations and therefore that that is, you know, that incitement is so serious that it merits closure.”

Bateman went on, returning to the technical topics with which he is clearly more comfortable:

Bateman: “Having said all of that, this will have to go through the Israeli parliament and that may be easier said than done because I, you know, particularly with the desire to block transmissions, that it likely to require parliamentary approval so there’s no time scale on this. It is simply at the moment a desire of intent.”

Menendez: “And just to be clear, is it both the Arabic and English networks?”

Bateman could at this point have clarified the significant differences between Al Jazeera’s English language and Arabic language content but declined to do so.

Bateman: “Well certainly they both operate from…they have correspondents of both language services in Israel – in Jerusalem – and so I think the assumption must be that it will be…will be both. I don’t think, you know, the Israeli government sees a distinction.”

As with the BBC News website’s written article, this report failed to adequately explain the story to audiences because it refrained from providing them with any examples of the kind of incitement that is at its core. That editorial policy turns the story into no more than a list of competing claims which audiences then have to judge for themselves without the benefit of factual information. Clearly that approach does not meet the BBC’s remit of providing “accurate and impartial news […] so that audiences can engage fully with issues” and it stands in sharp contrast to its own reporting of the recent similar story concerning the closure of a UK radio station on the grounds of incitement. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part one

Al Jazeera English (CAMERA)

Al-Jazeera America (CAMERA)

Looking back at the sourcing behind BBC reports on Qatar – part two 

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part one

When Britain’s media regulatory authority OFCOM suspended and later revoked the licence of a local radio station in the UK last month, the BBC News website provided audiences with an accurate and comprehensive explanation of the reasoning behind that decision in two articles titled “Sheffield-based radio station Iman FM suspended over ‘terror talks’” and “Sheffield-based radio station Iman FM loses licence“.

“A community radio station has had its licence revoked for broadcasting more than 25 hours of lectures by an alleged al-Qaeda leader.

Sheffield-based Iman FM’s licence had already been suspended by Ofcom for playing the lectures by radical American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. […]

“We have strict rules prohibiting harmful content in programmes likely to incite crime,” the Ofcom spokesperson added. […]

It followed “extremely serious breaches of the Broadcasting Code, after it aired material likely to incite or encourage the commission of crime or to lead to disorder”, said Ofcom. […]

In 2011 the United Nations Security Council described Awlaki as a “leader, recruiter and trainer for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”.

His sermons are thought to have inspired terrorist attacks including the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris in 2015 in which 12 people died and the 2009 Fort Hood shootings, in which 13 US soldiers were killed.”

That standard of clear and informative reporting was not however in evidence on August 6th when the BBC News website published a report now titled “Al Jazeera: Israel seeks to shut offices and take network off air“. [emphasis added]

Version 1

“Israel is seeking to close Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera’s offices in the country and revoke its journalists’ media credentials.

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara alleged that the channel supported terrorism, and said both its Arabic and English-language channels would be taken off air.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accuses the broadcaster of “incitement”. […]

Mr Netanyahu had accused the pan-Arab TV channel of fuelling a recent crisis around a holy site in Jerusalem known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount. […]

The Israeli prime minister vowed in late July to “expel Al Jazeera” for its reporting of the issue, which he said had incited violence. […]

Israel has however frequently accused it [Al Jazeera] of being biased in reporting the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

The BBC’s report refrained from providing its audiences with any examples of the kind of Al Jazeera material that has prompted such ‘allegations’ and ‘accusations’ past and present.

Readers were not informed, for example, that two days after the terror attack that sparked the recent violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere, Al Jazeera aired an interview with the deputy head of the banned northern Islamic Movement in which – as documented by MEMRI – he was given an unchallenged platform to promote pernicious incitement.

“Kamal Khatib: 22 years ago, we said that the Al-Aqsa Mosque was in danger. At the time, we said that throughout the excavations, the occupation used chemical substances that have a long-term effect. These substances could eat away at the rocks and pillars, but its effect would not show immediately, and afterwards they would be able to claim that the cracks in Al-Aqsa [walls]… It has happened. There are fissures and sinkholes in some places. [Their plan was that] they would be able to claim that it was the working of nature. It seems… Actually, I shouldn’t say “seems”…

Interviewer: Sorry to interrupt you, Sheikh, but did [Israel] do it now, when the mosque was closed? Did it execute this secret scheme?

Kamal Khatib: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I fear – I am almost convinced – that the goal of Israel in closing the mosque was not just to search for weapons, as the [Israelis] claimed. They know that there are no weapons inside the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Neither were readers told, for example, that in 2008 Al Jazeera threw a birthday party for the convicted terrorist Samir Kuntar (for which it later apologised) or that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Yusuf al Qaradawi has a regular Al Jazeera slot from which he has been inciting against Jews – and others – for years.

While failing to provide readers with any such examples, the BBC’s article does however report various Al Jazeera statements on the story, even amplifying the unquestioned claim that the network is “independent” despite the fact that it does not report on the autocratic regime that is the source of its funding.

“Al Jazeera has condemned the decision. […]

An Al Jazeera official in the Qatari capital Doha told AFP that the channel “deplores this action from a state that is called the only democratic state in the Middle East, and considers what it has done is dangerous”. […]

The Al Jazeera official defended its coverage, saying it was “professional and objective”.

The network’s editor in Jerusalem has accused Mr Netanyahu of collusion with his autocratic Arab neighbours in an attack on free and independent media.”

Obviously in order to understand this story properly, BBC audiences needed to be provided with information concerning the kind of material broadcast by Al Jazeera that has sparked the objections – just as they were in the case of the Sheffield radio station. The BBC News website failed to provide that essential background information but did other BBC platforms do any better? That question will be answered in part two of this post.

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Looking back at the sourcing behind BBC reports on Qatar – part two

 

 

Superficial BBC Radio 4 reporting on Qatar funding of Hamas

The June 15th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM‘ included an item relating to the ongoing diplomatic rift between Qatar and various other Arab and Muslim majority states.

Presenter Eddie Mair introduced the item as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Mair: “Qatar in the Middle East is getting the cold shoulder from many of its neighbours. They accuse Qatar of meddling in other countries’ internal affairs and of supporting terrorism. Saudi Arabia has demanded that Qatar stop supporting Hamas, which controls Gaza – all of which might have quite an effect on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. In the past five years Qatar has spent the equivalent of hundreds of millions of pounds building homes, a school, a hospital and main roads in Gaza. Reporting for ‘PM’; our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell now.”

One would of course expect that a report on Qatari funding of Hamas – especially within the framework of the current row between Qatar and other countries – would include clarification of Hamas’ designation as a terror organisation by the EU, the US and numerous additional countries. However, while that obviously relevant context was completely absent from this report by Yolande Knell, listeners did get to hear about the colour scheme at one of Qatar’s building projects.

Knell: “Work is still underway at Sheikh Hamad City; built with money Qatar and named after the country’s former ruler. It’s become one of the best new addresses in Gaza. The apartment blocks here are an attractive peach colour. On the grass there are children playing. They’re from some of the poorer Palestinian families who’ve already moved in here. There’s a new mosque and a new school. But residents like Baha Shalabi [phonetic] are fearful about the crisis between Qatar and other Gulf States.”

Shalabi [voiceover]: “The problems between Saudi Arabia and Qatar will affect us a lot, of course. Everything’s going to stop: the money, the support, the infrastructure. The buildings you see; all of this is going to stop. We’re going to be the victims.”

Knell: “All across this Palestinian territory you can see the effects of Qatari cash. I’m at the edge of a brand new road where cars are whizzing along the coast. Doha’s pledged well over a billion dollars to fix Gaza and while most of its help is humanitarian, it also buoys up Hamas – the Islamist group that seized control here ten years ago.”

After that tepid portrayal of the violent and bloody coup in which Hamas ousted the internationally recognised representatives of the Palestinian people from the Gaza Strip, Knell went on, failing to tell listeners that Qatar is one of the few countries to have recognised and supported Hamas’ regime in Gaza over that of the Palestinian Authority.

Knell: “Until now, the Emir of Qatar is the only head of state to have visited Gaza while Hamas has been in charge. It was a show of regional influence. But today Qatar stands accused of destabilising the Middle East by backing religious extremists – claims it denies. It’s been told to break off ties with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. The usually fiery Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar is cautious in his response.”

The terror organisation then got a BBC stage for amplification of its unchallenged messaging.

Zahar [voiceover]: “Qatar was supporting the Palestinian people. The houses that were built are not for Hamas. The streets that were asphalted are not for Hamas. And the schools and hospitals, they’re also for the Palestinian people. All the efforts to hitch Hamas to Qatar are wrong and void.”

Making no effort to clarify to audiences that funding provided by Qatar has also reportedly been diverted to terrorist purposes such as the reconstruction of cross-border attack tunnels or that Qatar pledged funding for Hamas employees, Knell went on with a whitewashed portrayal of Qatar’s recent expulsion of some Hamas officials:

Knell: “Back in Sheikh Hamad City, outside the large Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Mosque, there’ve been rallies in support of Qatar. Meanwhile, some top Hamas figures living in exile in Doha have moved away to ease pressure on their patron.

Knell failed to inform listeners that Hamas operatives based in Qatar have directed terror plots against Israel in the past. She went on:

Knell: “In a new policy document, Hamas tried to distance itself from the Muslim Brotherhood. So will the Qatari money keep flowing here? I asked Mushir Amar [phonetic] from the Islamic University in Gaza.”

Amar: “The situation is not really very clear. We heard some statements here and there from Saudi Arabia trying to reprimand Qatar for supporting Hamas and Hamas political leadership. They say that we’re not involved in any sort of inter-Arab conflict because this is really not in the best interest of Hamas and this is not in the best interest of the Palestinian people.”

Knell refrained from informing listeners that one of Saudi Arabia’s complaints is that Qatari support for Hamas undermines the Palestinian Authority. She closed her report with a superficial portrayal of the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Knell: “For now, the noise of bulldozers continues at Gaza’s Qatari funded building sites, providing much-needed jobs in this broken economy. But recently, when the local power plant ran out of fuel, Doha didn’t make a donation as it has previously. Palestinians here are trying not to get drawn into a damaging dispute but already they’re feeling its effects.”

Among the public purposes set out in the BBC’s constitutional document is “[t]o provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”. Obviously this superficial report by Knell, with its unchallenged Hamas messaging and its failure to provide basic context and background information, does not serve that purpose.

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Qatar’s expulsion of Hamas officials not newsworthy for the BBC

Since the rift between Qatar and several other Arab states blew up on June 5th the BBC News website has produced three articles tagged – inter alia – ‘Hamas’.

Qatar row: Trump urges Arab unity in call to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, June 7th 2017

“Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister called on Qatar to cut ties with Palestinian group Hamas in the occupied territories, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, if it wanted to end its isolation in the Gulf region. […]

He added that Qatar was undermining the Palestinian Authority and Egypt by supporting Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and said stopping these policies would “contribute to stability in the Middle East”.

Hamas is the largest of several militant Islamist Palestinian groups, and was the first Islamist group in the Arab world to win election at the ballot box, before it took power in Gaza after a battle 10 years ago.”

Qatar crisis: UAE threatens sympathisers with prison, June 7th 2017

“On Tuesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir called on Qatar to cut ties with Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in the occupied territories, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, if it wanted to end its isolation.”

Qatar vows ‘no surrender’ in row with Arab states, June 8th 2017

“Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has said Qatar needs to cut ties with Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in the occupied territories, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, if it wanted to end its isolation.”

However, BBC News website audiences have not been informed of the reports concerning Qatar’s request that a number of Hamas officials leave the country. Among those reportedly asked to leave was Saleh al Arouri – the organiser of Hamas operations in Judea & Samaria who was previously based in Turkey and was designated by the US Treasury in 2015. Arouri is said to have relocated to Malaysia or Lebanon.

“Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned Friday that a senior official in the Palestinian Hamas terror group, Saleh al-Arouri, recently expelled from Qatar, has resettled in Lebanon, where he has been planning, along with two other activists, terror attacks against Israel. […]

Israeli intelligence officials believe Arouri was behind the abduction and killing of three Jewish teenagers in the West Bank in the summer of 2014. That attack was among the main catalysts of the war in Gaza about a month later.

Arouri served several stints in Israeli jails, and was released in March 2010, within the framework of talks to free Gilad Shalit, the IDF corporal kidnapped by Hamas in 2006.”

The absence of any BBC coverage of this story does not, however, come as a surprise. For almost three years the corporation has generally ignored or downplayed the topic of Hamas’ activities in Judea & Samaria – including the murders of the three Israeli teenagers in 2014 – and Saleh al Arouri’s role in particular.

Rather than providing its audiences with background information which would help them understand any potential reactions from Hamas to the pressure it is currently under, the BBC has apparently chosen to ignore this latest story too.

 

BBC Business airbrushes abuse of foreign workers in Qatar

On March 27th the business section of the BBC News website published an interview with Qatar’s finance minister by the BBC’s economics editor, Kamal Ahmed, under the title “Qatar announces £5bn UK investment“.

“One of the largest investors in the UK has committed £5bn of new money to invest in transport, property and digital technology. […]

Qatar has already invested £40bn in the UK – it owns Harrods and a 95% stake in the Shard in London.

It also has a stake in Canary Wharf in the capital’s Docklands, as well as an interest in the Milford Haven liquefied natural gas terminal in South Wales.

It also bought the Olympic Village following the London 2012 Olympics.

“Currently the UK is our first investment destination and it is the largest investment destination for Qatari investors, both public and private,” Ali Shareef al Emadi, the country’s finance minister, told the BBC. […]

“We’re announcing an additional £5bn of investment in the next three to five years.

“Mainly this investment will focus on infrastructure sectors, technology, energy and real estate.””

The closing paragraphs of the 650-word article read as follows:

“Qatar has faced controversy over a fundraising for Barclays Bank at the time of the financial crisis and – more recently – allegations that poor labour conditions have marred the preparations for the 2022 World Cup which is being held in the country.

Mr Al Emadi said that Qatar had supported job creation in the UK.

“If you look at what we have done here, it has always been a win-win situation, whatever investment we do in the UK,” he said.

“When you talk about labour in Qatar, I think a lot of these things have been taken out of proportion and [are] inaccurate news.””

The phrase “controversy over a fundraising” is a very euphemistic portrayal of a story that involves an ongoing criminal investigation as well as a probe by the UK financial regulator.

Likewise, the phrase “poor labour conditions” is a highly evasive way of describing a story that has been covered extensively by many media outlets (including the BBC itself), NGOs and human rights groups alike. The Qatari minister’s claim that the issue of abuses of foreign workers in Qatar has been “taken out of proportion” and his allegation of “inaccurate news” are not questioned or challenged by Kamal Ahmed, thus allowing the interviewee the last (spun) word.

Moreover, this article does not include any additional information or relevant links relating to those two stories. The tag ‘Qatar’ appended to the article was apparently set up on the same day that this report was published and includes (at the time of writing) the grand total of three reports including this one, none of which relate to the two issues raised by Kamal Ahmed.

The BBC’s public purpose remit obliges it to “enhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” and only recently the corporation claimed to ask “the questions others won’t”. The BBC’s funding public would therefore expect to be provided with accurate and impartial information concerning those two stories (and other controversial issues such as support for terror groups) in an article relating to a foreign state investor in UK infrastructure.

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Looking back at the sourcing behind BBC reports on Qatar – part one

Looking back at the sourcing behind BBC reports on Qatar – part two