Selective BBC framing of Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ continues

The November 1st afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 19:18 here) described by presenter Razia Iqbal as follows:

Iqbal: “Let’s stay with Palestinian issues now and specifically Gaza, which has been controlled for the last decade by the Islamist group Hamas. Now Hamas has begun handing control of the border crossings with Egypt and Israel back to the Palestinian Authority which controls the rest of Palestinian territory. This is part of a reconciliation deal negotiated in Cairo last month between Hamas and Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority. I’ve been finding out more from our correspondent in Jerusalem Tom Bateman.”

Tom Bateman began by describing the ceremony at Rafah crossing on that day, then telling listeners that:

Bateman: “However, that crossing remains effectively completely closed and at the crossings with Egypt [sic – he apparently meant Israel] the very heavy restrictions remain in place. However, what has happened there is the dismantlement of the Hamas checkpoints there so when you cross between Israel and Gaza there is the Israeli side – the security there – and also the Hamas checkpoint. But the two sides obviously do not talk to each other so there’s always been a small PA checkpoint in between them. Now that checkpoint becomes the main checkpoint for the Palestinian Authority.”

In his response to a question from Iqbal about how the lives of people in Gaza are expected to change because of this hand-over of control of the Palestinian side of crossings from Hamas to the PA, Bateman suggested that it might lead to changes in Israeli policy.

Bateman: “But of course over time there is some hope that perhaps it may see restrictions eased and then of course that blockade on the Gaza Strip perhaps begin in some way to lift. Time will tell.”

What Bateman described as “that blockade” is of course restriction on the import to Gaza of weapons and dual-use goods that was introduced after Hamas’ violent coup in the Gaza Strip due to the need to protect Israeli citizens from Hamas terrorism.

The trouble is that nowhere in this report did either Bateman or Iqbal clarify to listeners that Hamas is a designated terror organisation that is very frank about its persistent aim to destroy the Jewish state by means of violence. Even when Bateman briefly touched on the topic of Hamas disarmament at the end of the item, he failed to inform listeners that since the announcement of the ‘reconciliation deal’ between Fatah and Hamas, various officials from the terror group have repeatedly clarified that no such step will be taken.

Bateman: “But over time the very big stumbling block – and what’s been the big problem in the past – is over the control of weapons; over Hamas’ armed wing…ah…with the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas saying, you know, there will be one law, one authority and one gun. But of course many people doubt whether full disarmament, you know, will take place.”

Neither did Bateman bother to explain to listeners that the failure to disarm Hamas will put the Palestinian Authority in breach of both its existing agreements with Israel and the Quartet Principles.

Since the story of Hamas-Fatah reconciliation first broke in mid-September, none of the BBC’s numerous reports concerning that topic have provided its audiences with a proper explanation of why Hamas must be disarmed if the PA is to meet its existing obligations.  Neither have any of those reports on a variety of BBC platforms included coverage of statements by Hamas officials clarifying the terror group’s refusal to disarm its militias and its intention to continue attacks against Israel.

As this latest report by Bateman once again indicates, the BBC’s failure to provide its funding public with the full range of information needed to properly understand this story is obviously not a matter of chance omission but of deliberate framing.

Related articles:

BBC News continues to conceal Hamas refusals to disarm

BBC adds superfluous punctuation to US and Israeli statements on Hamas

BBC News continues to mislead on Gaza electricity crisis

BBC News sidesteps the topic of Hamas disarmament yet again

Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns

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BBC WS radio listeners told that Nazareth is a ‘Palestinian city’

The October 14th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 38:06 here) that was introduced by presenter Paul Henley as follows:

Henley: “Now a film called ‘Wajib’ by the Palestinian director Annemarie Jacir has been shown at the London film festival. The film is the only Arab entry in competition and follows a father and his estranged son who must come together to hand-deliver his daughter’s wedding invitations to each guest, as is the custom in…in Palestine.”

The BBC Academy’s style guide specifically states that the corporation’s staff:

“…should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.”

Henley’s choice of words is even more egregious in light of the fact (not clarified to listeners) that the film’s story is based in Nazareth in northern Israel. Nevertheless, listeners heard another reference to ‘Palestine’ just seconds later.

Henley: “Now my colleague Razia Iqbal spoke to Annemarie for Newshour and she asked her how difficult it was as a Palestinian to keep politics and art separate.”

Jacir: “I don’t think it’s possible to make a film in Palestine that’s not somehow political because that’s just daily life. It’s everywhere. It’s in the way you travel, it’s in parents dropping their kids off to school, you know, you get round a checkpoint or not.”

Later on in the interview (40:53) listeners heard the following statements from Bethlehem born, Saudi raised, US educated Annemarie Jacir:

Jacir: “I think the Palestinians that are living in, you know, historic Palestine in a city like Nazareth – which is the biggest Palestinian city [sic] in Israel – they aren’t…who are they represented by? You know they are Israeli citizens on paper but they’re second, third class citizens. They don’t have the same rights. They’re not represented by the Israeli government for sure. They’re definitely not represented by the Palestinian Authority and so I feel like it is a community that lives a contradictory life and they’re struggling to find an identity…the identity and also, yeah, a political representative.”

Arab-Israelis living in Nazareth or anywhere else in Israel of course have the same rights as any other citizen – including the right to vote for their chosen parliamentary representatives. Eighteen (i.e. over 20% – reflecting the proportion of minorities in the population as a whole) of the current members of the Knesset are Arab-Israelis, Druze or Bedouin representing six different political parties (three of which – in contrast to Jacir’s claim – are part of the current coalition government) and surveys repeatedly indicate that the majority of Arab-Israelis view Israel in a positive light.  

Despite that, Razia Iqbal failed to present any challenge whatsoever to Jacir’s politically motivated, inaccurate and materially misleading claims and swiftly moved on to the next topic.

And yet, the BBC continues to claim that it provides its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards”.  

 

BBC’s Bateman misleads on US and Israeli approach to Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’

The October 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item concerning that day’s meeting of the Palestinian cabinet in the Gaza Strip. The report (from 45:06 here) was introduced by presenter Razia Iqbal as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Iqbal: “The Palestinian cabinet has met in Gaza for the first time in three years as the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority moves closer to taking charge of the territory from Hamas, which has controlled it for the past decade. Last month Hamas agreed to dissolve its administration in Gaza and make way for a unity government led by the prime minister Rami Hamdallah. These Palestinians said they hoped the new government would improve the lives of the people in the Gaza Strip.”

Listeners then heard two short ‘man in the street’ interviews.

Man 1: “The youths of Gaza are living in a very difficult situation. We’re waiting for this reconciliation in the hope that there will be more job opportunities for the younger generations.”

Man 2: “We welcome them and the new government. We call on them to look at the young people – which is the most important thing – and to solve the electricity issue and the crisis in Gaza and whatever else is possible to raise the quality of life of the Palestinian people.”

Iqbal: “Let’s speak now to the BBC’s Tom Bateman who joins us live from Jerusalem. Tom; let’s pic up from what we heard from the young Palestinians there about the quality of life in Gaza. It’s a…it’s a tiny strip of land but it is a very difficult place to be, isn’t it?”

Bateman: “It’s two million people. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire. I mean people are dealing with electricity for two to four hours a day. There are severe water shortages as you heard there because of the electricity crisis. That means that…ah…there is a serious problem with raw sewage…ahm…and life there is extremely difficult.”

Bateman sidestepped the topic of the reasons behind the electricity crisis in Gaza, dismissing the subject as “complex”. He also failed to tell listeners why conditions in Gaza did not improve during the two weeks between the Hamas announcement that it would dissolve its managing committee in the Gaza Strip and the cabinet meeting that is the subject of his report.

“Regarding the punitive measures Abbas levied against Gaza in April in order to force Hamas to cede control of the Strip, he [Abbas] said he was in “no hurry” to lift them.

He said the measures cut 22% of the PA’s funding to Gaza — a total of $1.5 billion US dollars — which affected the already dire electricity and water situation in the Strip. These steps would not be reversed until the PA was in full control of Gaza, he said.”

Bateman continued:

Bateman: “Now the factors behind that [electricity crisis] are complex but what’s happened today in terms of this meeting of the unity cabinet – that was actually first established about three years ago – is in terms of its symbolism, in terms of what Hamas and Fatah are saying about this, is that this is, you know, paving the way for Palestinian reconciliation. However…ah…you know, we’ve been on this road before. Previous attempts at such unity have come to nothing. I think this time, you know, the backing of the Egyptians – which has been in place previously – seems to be at a level where there is some hope that this…eh…this time that unity may come to fruition in terms…it may deliver something for the people of Gaza and an end to a lot of these problems. But we’ll just have to wait and see and after the cabinet meeting today there are now due to be talks between the two sides in Egypt.”

Bateman then went on to suggest that the approach of the United States to the prospect of a Palestinian unity government is different to that of Israel:

Bateman: “Meanwhile, there is everything from some support internationally from the US but from Israel the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that, you know, he’s not prepared to accept what he called imaginary appeasement in which the Palestinians supposedly reconcile at the expense of the existence of the State of Israel.”

A statement from the US Middle East envoy put out the day before Bateman’s report made the US position clear.

“The United States on Monday said it welcomes efforts for the Palestinian Authority to resume control over government institutions in the Gaza Strip after the PA premier arrived in the Hamas-controlled enclave earlier in the day for a cabinet meeting. But it made clear there would be no dealing with a Palestinian government including Hamas unless or until the terror group recognizes Israel and renounces terrorism.

“As the Palestinian Authority Cabinet visits Gaza today in preparation for its October 3 cabinet meeting, the United States welcomes efforts to create the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to fully assume its responsibilities in Gaza,” Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s envoy for Middle East, said in a statement. […]

“The United States stresses that any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said.”

Using the Hebrew phrase פיוסים מדומים – fictitious reconciliations – rather than “imaginary appeasement” (which Bateman appears to have gleaned from a report by Ha’aretz), Netanyahu said:

‘“We expect anyone talking about a peace process to recognize Israel and, of course, recognize a Jewish state, and we won’t accept faux reconciliations in which the Palestinian side reconciles at the expense of our existence,” Netanyahu said during a special Likud faction meeting in the West Bank city of Ma’ale Adumim.

“We have a very straightforward attitude toward anyone who wants to effect such a reconciliation: Recognize the State of Israel, dismantle Hamas’s military wing, sever the relationship with Iran, which calls for our destruction,” he added.’

In other words, with both the US envoy and the Israeli prime minister stating that any Palestinian government must recognise Israel and reject terrorism, the two countries’ responses to the prospect of a Palestinian government are far less different than Bateman would obviously have his audience believe.

The report continued with Bateman failing to clarify to audiences why Hamas’ designation as a terrorist organisation and its continuing refusal to reject terror is a significant part of this story.

Iqbal: “I suppose we shouldn’t forget and remind people that the US and the European Union have blacklisted Hamas as a terrorist organisation which does complicate the formation of any unity government.”

Bateman: “Well this is of course one of the major issues in terms of the way that…ehm…the governance of Gaza should be dealt with because as you say…ah…it’s not just Israel but of course many countries around the world that…eh…regard Hamas as a terrorist…ahm…organisation and so you therefore have a situation where if there is reconciliation, what does that mean for the Palestinian Authority and the way it is run? Not just in Gaza but in the West Bank. I think that much will depend on these talks that are due to take place, as I say, in Cairo. And just getting through those with the many issues that have to be resolved; not least the control of arms in Gaza itself, with President Abbas suggesting…ah…that he will not accept a model where Hamas has control of arms with a sort of PA government just in charge of civilian control. Lots of issues to deal with and – as I say – you know….ah…those people hoping it may deliver something but of course the past has proven otherwise.”

Once again BBC audiences did not hear a proper explanation of why existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians mean that Hamas must be disarmed before becoming part of any Palestinian government. As was the case in previous reports on this story, that means that audiences are not receiving the full range of information necessary for its proper understanding.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns

The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part one

The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part two

The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part three

BBC News sidesteps the topic of Hamas disarmament yet again 

 

 

BBC WS passes up the chance to tell listeners about PA incitement

The lead story in the July 27th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ related to the removal of security measures at the entrance to Temple Mount. In all, almost 28% of the programme’s total air time was devoted to that particular story.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the first part of the item (from 00:53 here) as follows: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Iqbal: “We begin though with the resolution of a story that has been bubbling away since mid-July in the city of Jerusalem and which was showing signs of escalating more widely in the region. The location? A potent cauldron that is a sensitive and holy site to both Jews and Muslims known as Temple Mount to the Jews and as Haram al Sharif to the Muslims. And the issue? Israel’s decision to install new security measures at the entrance of al Aqsa after two Israeli policemen were killed by three assailants.”

Those new security measures were of course installed at the entrance to the site as a whole rather than at the entrance to the mosque named al Aqsa. In other words, we see here that Iqbal – like some of her colleagues – has adopted terminology recommended by the PLO in an ‘advisory’ document put out to members of the foreign media in 2014.  She continued, failing to inform listeners that the attack on the two policemen was a terror attack and of the relevant fact that the perpetrators used guns smuggled into al Aaqsa mosque by an accomplice.

Iqbal: “The authorities say the men initiated the attack from inside the compound. The installation of metal detectors prompted protests and they were replaced with cameras which also did not satisfy Muslims who boycotted the area. Instead of praying in the mosque, they did so on the streets. It was a tense situation. Israeli police have now removed all new security measures and the situation has returned to what it was before July the fourteenth. Muslim officials say they’re satisfied and that they’ll urge worshippers to begin praying at the site again.”

The programme’s worldwide listeners then heard Iqbal again refer to Temple Mount as “al Aqsa mosque” as she described scenes that actually took place outside Lions Gate, along with comments from two people who made identical remarks in a video put out by Reuters – both of whom were not “outside al Aqsa mosque” but on streets elsewhere in the city.

Iqbal: “Palestinians gathered outside al Aqsa mosque to celebrate. The fate of the site is an emotional issue and many Palestinians like Umm Dir [phonetic] hope it’s a first step towards Israel giving up control.”

Voiceover: “Thanks to God it’s a victory. And with God’s help we hope that a time will come in which we will see all of Jerusalem and Palestine free.”

Iqbal: “Salim Amr [phonetic] from East Jerusalem expressed his gratitude, quoting from the Koran.”

Voiceover: “This is a blessing from God. If you stand for God, God will help you in victory. The closer you are to God, God will help us.”

Iqbal next introduced comment from a member of the Waqf but without clarifying to listeners that he and his organisation were central to the initiation and perpetuation of the boycott of the site supposedly over security measures, using the canard that they ‘violated’ the status quo. Neither did Iqbal inform audiences that Salhab has a rich history of denial of Jewish history and rights on Temple Mount and promotion of incitement using baseless rumours about ‘threats’ to the site.

Iqbal: “Abdul Azim Salhab is the head of the Waqf council: a Jordanian-backed body that oversees the Muslim religious sites in Jerusalem.”

Voiceover: “The destructive Israeli occupation tried to break the will of this nation – the Palestinian nation – and especially the people of Jerusalem who all stood proudly together. And we want them to keep standing to defend the holy al Aqsa mosque, outside the gates of the holy al Aqsa mosque and now – God willing – inside the gates of the holy al Aqsa mosque.”

Iqbal then spoke to an Israeli minister.

Iqbal: “So; some Palestinians seeing this as a victory. I’ve been speaking to Yuval Steinitz who is a member of Israel’s security cabinet and the minister of national infrastructure, energy and water resources. Is this decision a climb-down by the Israeli government?”

In his responses to Iqbal’s questions, Steinitz raised an issue which has been glaringly absent from the BBC’s coverage of this story as a whole.

Steinitz: “When we realised that this [security measures] is being used – or actually abused – in order to incite against Israel, against the Jews, not just in the Palestinian Authority but also in the wider Arab and Muslim world, we have to re-evaluate and we will consider other, maybe more sophisticated, less apparent but not less effective counter-measures in order to enhance security for all visitors in the region – Muslims, Jews and Christians.” […]

Steinitz: “…and if our enemies; Hamas, the Islamic movement and even the Palestinian Authority unfortunately – even the Palestinian Authority – are using this terrible terrorist incident and our necessary counter measures in order to incite against Israel, against Jews in general, you know, very strong – even antisemitic – kind of incitement, we have to diffuse this card; to consider other measures in order to enhance security.”

While BBC audiences did see brief whitewashed mentions of “protests” in Jordan in reports concerning the attack on a security officer at Israel’s embassy in Amman, they have not been informed of scenes in the Jordanian parliament, of repeated incidents of intimidation of Jews in Istanbul, of repeated inflammatory statements made by Turkey’s president or of anti-Israel protests as far away as Kuala Lumpur.

Neither have BBC audiences been provided with a comprehensive picture of the incitement fomented by Mahmoud Abbas, by the Palestinian Authority and by its dominant party Fatah as well as Hamas and the Waqf.

However, when Razia Iqbal had the opportunity to enhance listeners’ understanding of the scale, nature and significance of that incitement in her subsequent conversation with Fatah’s Nasser al Qudwa, she not only allowed him to promote unchallenged falsehoods but bailed out in the face of his disingenuous denials of Palestinian incitement.

Iqbal: “So does the Palestinian Authority feel vindicated by this decision? Let’s speak to Nasser Qudwa who is the media and culture commissioner of the ruling Fatah party central committee and a former Palestinian representative at the United Nations. Ah…what’s your reaction to this decision by Israel to withdraw all of this new security apparatus – the metal detectors and the cameras?”

Qudwa: “Well I think what happened represent a real achievement for the Palestinian people, especially our people in Jerusalem who fought the Israeli attempt to create new facts, to curtail and hamper the free access of worshippers to al Aqsa – the holy al Aqsa.”

That of course is a lie: apart from a two-day closure while police conducted their investigation into the July 14th terror attack and a brief ban on entry to men under 50 after violence was threatened on July 21st, worshippers were free to access the site and – despite the efforts of the Waqf – many did just that. Qudwa went on to promote additional unchallenged falsehoods.

Qudwa: “And by the way, these measures have nothing to do with security. This is a huge lie. This is part of strategies or a strategy that is aimed at turning the situation at al Haram al Sharif and al Aqsa mosque and the proof is very clear including official statements by some governmental…governmental officials who claim crazy things such as Israeli sovereignty and Israeli ownership of…of the holy place in addition of course to Israeli actions, Israeli measures…”

Iqbal: “It is perfectly – I’m sorry to interrupt you, sir – but it’s perfectly legitimate for the Israelis to want to see some security isn’t it? I mean there were police officers who were killed just by this site.”

Qudwa: “Yes that’s true. However, these were killed by three that came from Israel. No Palestinian faction group had anything to do with this. The attack…eh…eh…attack was carried [out] outside…outside the Haram al Sharif and al Aqsa mosque and it has never been the case that there was security danger or security threats within the compound, within Haram al Sharif and al Aqsa mosque.”

That lie also went unchallenged by Iqbal despite the fact that the BBC has covered violent rioting on Temple Mount in the past and al Aqsa mosque has been used to stockpile rocks used in such pre-planned disturbances. Of course, had Iqbal bothered to clarify earlier that the July 14 attack was carried out using guns brought into the al Aqsa mosque, listeners would have been better placed to judge Qudwa’s falsehoods for themselves.

Iqbal: “OK, so…”

Qudwa: “After that – let me just finish this – I might add that there was a telephone conversation between President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu during which the president condemned the attack and requested the prime minister not to take any measures that might change the situation and he promised – the prime minister promised – to do precisely that.  And unfortunately he didn’t keep his word and we saw those measures that, again, have nothing to do with security but they are part of a strategy – of a scheme – Israeli scheme that’s very clear for everyone.”

Iqbal: “OK, so the minister that I’ve just spoken to, Yuval Steinitz, he accused the Palestinian Authority of inciting violence against Israel. Is he right?”

Qudwa: “Listen, this is insulting; insulting for every Palestinian. Any human being under pressure, under…under discrimination, subject to oppressive and oppressive policies and measures by foreign occupation that’s being transformed into colonialism has to react. They don’t need incitement. They don’t need any nodding from anybody. This is like accusing Palestinians of being sub-humans. This is outrageous. This is outrageous.”

Iqbal: “OK.”

Qudwa: “No reason is needed for any Palestinian to reject Israeli policies and Israeli positions, especially with regard to al Aqsa and East Jerusalem – occupied East Jerusalem.”

Iqbal: “We’ll leave it there.”

And so, in addition to not being pressed for an honest answer on the topic of Palestinian Authority and Fatah incitement, Qudwa was allowed by Iqbal to promote unchallenged mendacious propaganda about a “foreign occupation” and “colonialism” which not only did absolutely nothing to meet the BBC’s obligation to help listener understanding of this story or the broader issues at hand, but actively hindered that purpose.  

 

 

 

The missing word in BBC R4 reporting on UNESCO Hebron resolution

h/t DS

On the evening of July 7th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ heard extensive coverage of that day’s UNESCO resolution declaring the old city of Hebron an endangered ‘Palestinian’ world heritage site – but with one word critical for audience understanding of the story repeatedly omitted.

The programme’s synopsis reads: [emphasis in bold added]

“Israel has strongly criticised UNESCO’s declaration that Hebron is a World Heritage site.”

Presenter Razia Iqbal gave listeners the headlines at the start of the programme (from 00:40), including:

“Israel has strongly criticised a UN decision to declare Hebron a world heritage site. We’ll get the Palestinian response.”

Listeners then heard what it later became apparent was an edited and spliced statement from Manuel Hassassian:

“I’m not only pleased but I’m thrilled that UNESCO is preserving the culture and the identity of the Palestinian people in Hebron.”

The programme continued with a news bulletin read by Charles Caroll in which (at 05:32) listeners heard the following:

“The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned the decision of the UN cultural body to declare the old city of Hebron a protected world heritage site. He called it delusional. Palestinian diplomats had urged UNESCO to fast-track the site’s addition to the list of world heritage sites in danger. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman has more details.”

Bateman: “There were heated scenes during the meeting of the UN’s cultural body in Krakow as delegates asked security to remove the Israeli ambassador who’d confronted the chair on the platform. The vote, which followed a submission from the Palestinian delegation, designated the old city of Hebron an endangered world heritage site. The city is holy to all three monotheistic faiths. Rising from its ancient centre is the imposing site known to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs, to Muslims as the Ibrahimi mosque. The city is also one of the West Bank’s most acute flash points. Several hundred Jewish settlers live in the centre, surrounded by 200,000 Palestinians.”

In other words, in the first six and a half minutes of this programme listeners heard three portrayals of the story, all of which omitted any mention of the highly relevant fact that Israel’s objections are actually rooted in UNESCO’s declaration of the old city of Hebron a ‘Palestinian’ site – and the consequent erasure of its Jewish history and heritage – rather than in any objection to conservation per se. 

The same story was the topic of a long item broadcast later on in the programme (from 30:12) and Razia Iqbal’s introduction to that item likewise failed to inform listeners of the real reason for the controversy. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Iqbal: “The ancient city of Hebron is significant for all three monotheistic faiths and it’s often been a contested city. Today it finds itself at the centre of controversy because the UN’s cultural agency has voted to declare the old city of Hebron, which is in the West Bank, as a protected world heritage site. The Palestinians had urged UNESCO to fast-track the process, alleging that Israel was carrying out a number of violations in Hebron where a small community of Jewish settlers lives in the middle of more than 200,000 Palestinians. Israel was deeply opposed to the move and its prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned UNESCO’s decision as delusional.”

Listeners then heard a voice-over translation of the Israeli prime minister’s statement in Hebrew.

“This time they have determined that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is a Palestinian site – in other words, not Jewish – and that the site is endangered. Not a Jewish site? Who’s buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah: our forefathers and mothers. And that this is in danger? Only where Israel is present like in Hebron is freedom of worship guaranteed for everybody.”

Iqbal next introduced an interviewee who appeared days before in a BBC World Service item relating to the same topic and like her colleague, she too presented him as a “tour guide”, failing to inform audiences of the fact that he is an activist in a ‘peacemaking’ group registered in the US.

Iqbal: “The words of the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Elihau McLean is a Jerusalem based tour guide who runs what are described as dual narrative tourist visits to Hebron. He’s been telling me why Hebron is such a…so historically significant.”

McLean: “Hebron is one of the oldest cities in the world. We understand it to be the second oldest city in the holy land after Jericho. Hebron is at least 4,000 years old. There’s an archaeological site in a hilltop called Tel Rumeida or Tel Hebron that dates back to the early Bronze Age about 4,500 years ago and that’s the site of the biblical city of Hebron that’s mentioned in the Bible. That’s also where King David established his kingdom – the kingdom of Judea – over 2,500 years ago. There’s ancient history in Hebron.”

Iqbal: “And it’s significant and important to Jews as well as Muslims and Christians.”

McLean: “That’s right. It’s…first of all Jews have four holy cities in the world. The first holiest city is Jerusalem and our second holiest city is Hebron. Muslims have four holy cities; Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem and Muslims consider Hebron their fourth holiest city after Jerusalem. So it’s holy to Jews and Muslims, certainly, as well as Christians.”

Iqbal: “And politically, how is it currently divided between the Palestinians and Israeli ownership?”

McLean: “So Bill Clinton invited Yasser Arafat and Benjamin Netanyahu in 1997 to a small river in the state of Maryland called Wye River and they negotiated the Hebron Accords where Israel agreed to withdraw from 80% of the city and hand it over to Palestinian Authority control. That 80% is called the letter H one – Hebron 1. H2 – 20% of the city – where 30,000 Palestinians live and about 1,000 Israeli Jews live in that 20%. It’s called H2 and that is the heart of the old city where the Tomb of the Patriarchs is, the Kasbah – the old Arab market. So that’s where most of the tension is; in the old city and in the middle of a region called H2 under Israeli control.”

Iqbal: “What’s your view today in the context of what you do – but also just generally – that UNESCO has declared the old city that you’re talking about as a protected world heritage site? What do you make of that?”

McLean: “I run weekly dual narrative tours and we bring the tourists to Hebron. We have a Palestinian partner organisation so they get a Palestinian tour guide to hear the Palestinian narrative and then they hear the Israeli narrative. So they hear Palestinian speakers, they get to meet soldiers, they get to meet settlers, they get to meet and hear all voices. Our tour is the only nuanced tour of Hebron. With that in mind, I would say that it’s…I feel it’s a bit absurd the UNESCO decision. From what I understand it acknowledges the old city of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs specifically and exclusively as Islamic heritage sites which is a bit absurd considering the Tomb of the Patriarchs is the foundation of Jewish history. It’s the longest standing holy site of Judaism – even more than the Temple itself. That building was never destroyed. It was built by King Herod two thousand years ago: hundreds and hundreds of years even before the arrival of Islam. So how can…even from an Islamic or historical or archaeological point of view… anyone who understands biblical history understands that this is an ancient heritage site. And then it was a church and then it was a mosque. So if we can acknowledge that all three faiths are connected there, I think UNESCO would have a lot more credibility.”

Iqbal: “That was Eliyahu McLean; a Jerusalem tour guide. I’ve also been speaking to Ambassador Manuel Hassassian who is the head of the Palestinian mission to the UK. I asked him for his reaction to UNESCO’s decision.”

Observant audience members would then have realised that they were hearing the first part of the ‘quote’ promoted at the beginning of the programme – as well as what the BBC preferred to edit out of its headline.

Hassassian: “I am not only pleased but I’m thrilled that there is acknowledgement by the international community through UNESCO that Hebron is an occupied city and it should be under the sovereignty of the Palestinian leadership.”

Iqbal: “Well, the UN recognises that Hebron is in the West Bank so that’s not the issue. The issue is the resolution pointing out the committee sees that those areas inside the old city of Hebron that are deemed to be in danger are now protected under a kind of world heritage site notion. What does that mean to the Palestinians?”

Listeners then heard the second half of that spliced quote:

Hassassian: “It means that UNESCO is preserving the culture and the identity of the Palestinian people in Hebron.”

Iqbal: “There has been concern voiced that the application made by the Palestinians to UNESCO only focused on the Islamic period in Hebron’s history and didn’t acknowledge the Christian and Jewish history of key sites in the area. What’s your view of that?”

Seeing as so far listeners had only heard of such concerns from the Israeli prime minister and from an Israeli interviewee, they would be unaware that similar concerns were also raised by the professional body that examined – and recommend not to accept – the Palestinian proposal as well as by several Western countries present at the debate.

Hassassian: “Well you know nobody can deny the fact that…I mean the site in itself also there is of course a tacit agreement and acknowledgement to the Tomb of the Patriarchs there. Nobody is denying that factor and it has been said explicitly in the document that this is, you know, a site that is Muslim, Christian and…err…of course Jewish.”

Iqbal: “Are you saying though that the sites that are clearly of value and significance to all three monotheistic faiths are not being taken care of?”

Hassassian: “Well because Israel controls – we have to understand this – Israel controls the site and Israel has accepted the 300 settlers to reign supreme in that part and to take over, you know, by sheer and brute force the control of that area. Now this resolution comes to say that there is no monopoly, especially using religion, as an excuse to control that part of Hebron.”

Failing to challenge Hassassian’s blatant lie or to remind listeners – and him – that there are Israelis living in that part of Hebron because the Palestinian Authority agreed to such an arrangement twenty years ago and while refraining from clarifying that this latest Palestinian stunt is precisely intended to use religion as a means of controlling that part of the city, Iqbal went on:

Iqbal: “What difference is it going to make on the ground?”

Hassassian: “It makes a big difference. The difference is is [sic] the fact that this is part and parcel of a city that has 200,000 population. They have the right to go there, to practice their religion. It is under the sovereignty of the Palestinians with accessibility to other religions to practice their rights.”

Iqbal: “But hasn’t that been the case already?”

Hassassian: “No it has not been. If you go there, and I was there, ma’am, like six months ago, I had to go through hell in order to enter, you know, the Abrahamic mosque. I had to go through intensive security search and I had to show that I am a Muslim or not. You know: just allow me to enter.”

Iqbal did not bother to ask Hassassian if the security search he had to endure has anything to do with the prevalence of Palestinian terrorism in Hebron or whether the need to show whether he is a Muslim is related to the fact that certain areas of the site – which is run by the Waqf – are open to Muslims but off-limits to Jews for all but ten days a year.  

Iqbal: “And, and you are now saying that it will be absolutely the case that those Israelis and those people who practice Judaism will have access to those sites also, without the kind of treatment that you’re alleging you have to go through when you want to visit the mosque?”

Hassassian: “When there is peace and when is our state not only recognised by the United Nations General Assembly but hopefully by the Security Council and when Israel accepts the Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, I think everything is negotiable.”

Although that would obviously have been a good time – especially in light of that revealing response – to inform listeners of the fact that under the terms of the Oslo Accords the Palestinian Authority is supposed to “ensure free access” to Jewish holy sites in areas under its control – and that already that clause is not properly upheld – Iqbal closed the item there.

Iqbal: “Ambassador Manuel Hassassian who is the head of the Palestinian mission to the United Kingdom.”

As was the case in two other BBC reports on this story (see ‘related articles’ below), audiences were not provided with the relevant context of the PA’s repeated efforts to erase Jewish history and heritage by tabling politicised motions at the UN’s cultural body and neither were they informed that the professional body that examined the Palestinian proposal did not recommend its adoption.

In this report, however, the BBC also failed to present the crux of the story accurately to Radio 4 listeners by repeatedly refraining from including the word ‘Palestinian’ in its description of the UNESCO resolution.

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BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Trump trip report flunks on Iran

As was noted here in an earlier post, the lead story in the May 22nd afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ concerned the US president’s visit to Israel.

In addition to repeated promotion of the ‘apartheid’ calumny, in the first of two items relating to that story listeners had heard BBC Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman telling them that the Israeli government ‘says’ that Iran arms Hizballah.

Razia Iqbal: “You mentioned Iran and there was some criticism of Iran when the president was in Saudi Arabia and he has underlined that criticism again today in Israel hasn’t he?”

Tom Bateman: That’s right and, you know, I don’t think that’s going to be the last of it and of course it’s a message that resonates with Israel because Israel’s government is extremely concerned about Iran. They believe that…ah…because of its action, that they say it’s arming Hizballah just north of Israel here in Syria [sic], that that brings an even greater threat – in fact its greatest threat in the form of Hizballah just over its border in Lebanon.” [emphasis added]

As was noted in our previous post:

“One would of course expect a BBC correspondent based in Jerusalem – new or not – to be capable of informing BBC audiences that Iranian financial and military support for Hizballah (in violation of UNSC resolution 1701) is not just something that the Israeli government ‘says’ but a fact about which Hizballah has been open and at least one Iranian official has admitted.”

Later on in the same programme’s second item on that story (from 45:05 here) presenter Razia Iqbal returned to the topic of Iran in a conversation with the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet.

Listeners learned nothing from that conversation about the Iranian regime’s policy of supporting and enabling terror groups in the region and the real reasons why some Middle East countries have long viewed the Iranian regime as a threat to regional stability were not conveyed to BBC audiences. What they did hear, however, is a portrayal of the subject that would doubtless have gone down very well in Tehran. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Razia Iqbal: “Let’s return to our top story now; the second leg of President Trump’s visit to the Middle East. Today he is in Israel and the Palestinian territories. We’re joined now from Jerusalem by Newshour’s Lyse Doucet. Ah…Lyse: you were in Saudi Arabia following President Trump there and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke directly about the fact that the president flew from Riyad to Tel Aviv and though there were no diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. I wonder if there is a sense here that the Gulf states are making common cause with Israel in the context of their mutual fear of Iran?”

Doucet: “Yes, it’s very interesting isn’t it? This little diplomatic milestone: President Trump flying for the first time on this first direct flight. In fact Prime Minister Netanyahu said he looks forward to the day when an Israeli prime minister can fly from Tel Aviv to Riyad. And I think it’s a story that doesn’t get enough attention; that there have been behind the scene, very discreet meetings between Israelis and Saudis. Very senior Saudis have come to Israel before because they do want to make common cause.”

Of course one of the media outlets not giving “enough attention” to that story is the BBC itself. Doucet continued:

“You’ve mentioned one of the biggest reasons to do so and that is their shared animosity towards Iran. That was one of the main issues in the centrepiece speech that President Trump delivered to a gathering of some 40 Arab and…leaders from the Arab and Islamic world. Not just the fight against extremism but a fight against Iran and he’s brought that message here. He spoke of…he said I’ve come from the Arab world with the common understanding that is shared by you that Iran is the main threat. So things are definitely shifting.”

Of course “things” actually ‘shifted’ quite some time ago – as Gulf state reactions to the 2015 P5+1 deal with Iran concerning its nuclear programme indicated – but neither Iqbal nor Doucet (who has written about that topic in the past) bothered to remind listeners of that.

Iqbal: “It’s interesting to hear you say they’re shifting because of course Iran on the ground in Iraq and in…in…certainly in Iraq is doing quite a lot to fight against the Islamic State group. So one wonders about these tectonic shifts, if you like, and how they’ll manifest itself [sic] given that President Trump is really keen to make inroads with eliminating Islamic State.”

Doucet: “Yes, and welcome, President Trump, to the Middle East. At some point we may hear him say – as he said about the Affordable Care Act in the United States; Obamacare, – I didn’t realise that it was so complicated. As you know, take Syria that you just mentioned [sic] – he wants to push back Iran; that is the Saudis’ main goal. But interestingly, President Trump did not mention Russia in his speech in Riyad. And arguably Russia and Iran are working together, first to bolster President Assad but also to fight against so-called Islamic State and at the same time to push back some of the forces which have been trained and financed by the United States.

And what the Iranians would say is that they are in Syria because they’ve been asked to be there. They’re in Iraq because they’ve been asked to be there and they see no reason why they should leave. I think there’s growing concern about what will come next at a time when Iranians have shown that in the re-election of Hassan Rouhani, they want an engagement with the wider world. The message from Riyad – and it will be the message as well from Jerusalem – is that their enemies want to isolate them in the world.”

Iqbal: “Just, Lyse, very briefly; his next trip is to the Palestinian territories?”

Doucet: “Yes. The Palestinians have been surprised. They thought that President Trump would be only focusing on Israeli interests and Israeli views but his ear has been bent by King Abdallah of Jordan, by the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and this is why we’re not going to see the announcement of a move of the American embassy to Jerusalem. He is trying to be a friend of Israel and a friend of the Palestinians.”

Doucet offers no factual evidence for that extraordinary claim.

For years BBC journalists – and not least Lyse Doucet and Razia Iqbal in person – have been playing down the Iranian regime’s regional aggression and patronage of terrorism and the corporation has also repeatedly propagated the myth of ‘moderates’ within the Iranian regime.

If BBC audiences are to understand why Israel may have common interests relating to Iran with some of its neighbours in the Middle East, then clearly they need to be provided with a factually accurate and comprehensive portrayal of the Iranian regime’s policies, positions and activities rather than whitewashed, vacuous and unhelpful commentary of the type broadcast to millions worldwide in this item.  

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BBC WS Newshour promotes ‘apartheid’ smear in Trump visit coverage

 

BBC WS Newshour promotes ‘apartheid’ smear in Trump visit coverage

The lead story in the May 22nd afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ was the visit of the US president to Israel which, at the time of broadcast, had commenced just a few hours earlier.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the item (from 01:07 here) as follows: [all emphasis in italics in the original, all emphasis in bold added]

“We begin though with President Trump’s continuing visit in the Middle East. He’s now in Israel having flown direct from Saudi Arabia; in itself a first as there are no diplomatic relations between those two countries. And he arrives having cast himself as the world’s greatest deal-maker, nodding towards what would be the world’s biggest deal: peace between the Israeli and the Palestinians…Israelis and Palestinians. More than two decades of failed peace talks show how difficult a deal between the two sides has been and despite Mr Trump’s deal-making claims, there is deeply held scepticism over what progress can be made. We’ll be assessing what scope there is for movement in what’s been a stand-off for some time.

Speaking shortly after arriving in Tel Aviv, President Trump said he had found new reasons for hope during his recent travels. [recording of Trump speaking]. And the prime minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement. [recording of Netanyahu speaking]”.

Iqbal then introduced the person that ‘Newshour’ bizarrely deemed appropriate to provide the opening comment on this lead story – BBC frequent flyer Mustafa Barghouti.

Iqbal: “Well in contrast to the public rhetoric, underlining the mammoth task ahead of anyone attempting to tackle the possibility of peace in the Middle East [sic], a Palestinian official, Mustafa Barghouti, speaking to the BBC reminded President Trump that achieving peace would not be an easy process and would require significant concessions from Israel.”

Barghouti: “There is a military occupation of the Palestinian territories since 50 years and without ending the occupation there will be no peace. We want him to remember that this occupation has become a system of apartheid much worse than what prevailed in South Africa at one point in time. And we want him to remember that there is a need for the Palestinian freedom; a need for Palestinians to have their own independent and sovereign state. Without a Palestinian state there will be no peace.”

There is nothing to indicate that Barghouti was speaking live with Iqbal. Rather, this apparently pre-recorded statement with its promotion of the politically motivated ‘apartheid’ calumny  – which the BBC knows full well to be a falsehood used as a propaganda device to delegitimise Israel – was selected by the programme’s editors for inclusion in the item. Not only did Iqbal fail to clarify to listeners that Barghouti’s smear is baseless, she subsequently repeated it, as we shall see later on.

Iqbal continued:

“Palestinian official Mustafa Barghouti. Let’s speak now to our correspondent Tom Bateman who joins us live from Jerusalem. So, ah, Tom – the…eh…arrival of President Trump and his wife – there was quite a lot of warmth and friendliness at the airport. How’s the visit gone so far?”

After Bateman had described the security arrangements in the Old City of Jerusalem as the US president visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall he went on:

Bateman: “And these are really the symbols of this visit. What we have yet to have is the substance and that is on two really key issues, I think. Firstly, following on from his visit to Saudi, as you heard there from the president himself, he wants to create a regional coalition which will include Israel. And this is really his attempt to reset US foreign policy after that of President Obama about whom he was so critical because he believes, as he said, that he thinks there is a common threat here to the Gulf states, to the majority Sunni countries and to Israel and that is in the form of Iran.”

Following Bateman’s outlining of his second ‘key issue’ – “peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians” – Iqbal picked up on his previous reference to Iran.

Iqbal: “You mentioned Iran and there was some criticism of Iran when the president was in Saudi Arabia and he has underlined that criticism again today in Israel hasn’t he?”

Bateman: “That’s right and, you know, I don’t think that’s going to be the last of it and of course it’s a message that resonates with Israel because Israel’s government is extremely concerned about Iran. They believe that…ah…because of its action, that they say it’s arming Hizballah just north of Israel here in Syria [sic], that that brings an even greater threat – in fact its greatest threat in the form of Hizballah just over its border in Lebanon.”

One would of course expect a BBC correspondent based in Jerusalem – new or not – to be capable of informing BBC audiences that Iranian financial and military support for Hizballah (in violation of UNSC resolution 1701) is not just something that the Israeli government ‘says’ but a fact about which Hizballah has been open and at least one Iranian official has admitted.

The Iranian angle to this story reappeared again in a later item in the same programme which will be discussed in a subsequent post.

Following her conversation with Bateman, Razia Iqbal introduced her next guest – former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. During that conversation Iqbal recycled Barghouti’s ‘apartheid’ calumny (10:52):

Iqbal: “I mean there are huge, huge challenges on both sides and there has been of course a stalemate and no real peace process for…for many years now. What do you think he [Trump] will make of the line he is almost certainly going to get from the Palestinians which we heard a sense of from Mustafa Barghouti: that there is this military occupation, that it’s really become a system of apartheid and it’s much worse than what prevailed in South Africa. How do think that will be…that will go down with President Trump?”

Shapiro: “I don’t think he will accept that narrative as a complete and accurate narrative of the situation. […] I don’t think he will accept that narrative – nor do I think he should.”

Iqbal: “Well if you don’t think he should accept that narrative, what’s your assessment then of both President Trump and his son-in-law and special envoy Jared Kushner and their attempts to really try and bring about something that has been so elusive?”

The editorial decision to promote Barghouti’s patently false and baseless ‘apartheid’ calumny in this item is further underscored by Iqbal’s repetition of the smear. This is not a case of a presenter inadequately responding to an inaccurate statement made by a guest during a live interview. This is the BBC World Service intentionally providing amplification for a falsehood used as part of a political campaign to delegitimise Israel and it clearly does not meet the BBC’s supposed standards of ‘impartial’ journalism.

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Another BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Israel special – part two

The first part of the opening report in Tim Franks’ currently ongoing series of features on Israel which was broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on January 30th (from 30:12 here) was discussed in a previous post.newshour-30-1

Following his visit to Givat HaMatos with the founder of the political NGOs Ir Amim and Terrestrial Jerusalem, Daniel Seidemann, Franks went on to present a view of the topic of the proposed relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem which conforms to the framing of that topic seen in all BBC content to date.

That framing fails to inform audiences why there should be objection to the relocation of the embassy to an area of Jerusalem to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim. In addition, Franks amplified Seidemann’s view of the issue, which is strikingly similar to that expressed by Palestinian officials.

Franks: “There’s some other building work in Jerusalem which, if it went ahead, would be controversial. Danny Seidemann puts it rather more strongly. He says it would be destabilising, dangerous and a death certificate for America’s role as a mediator. And that would be moving the US embassy here. No other country has their embassy in Jerusalem because under the UN resolution which paved the way for the establishment of a Jewish homeland and an Arab homeland seventy years ago, the status of Jerusalem was left unresolved.”

Franks clearly misled listeners here: UN GA resolution 181 was non-binding and no more than a recommendation – the implementation of which depended upon the agreement of the parties concerned. As is well known, the Arab nations rejected the Partition Plan en masse and even threatened to use force to oppose it. The recommendation hence became a non-starter and its various clauses – including the Jerusalem corpus separatum proposal – irrelevant. Franks’ inaccurate portrayal of that resolution will come as no surprise to those familiar with the BBC’s serial misrepresentation of the topic. He continued:

Franks: “But the Trump administration and the man it wants here as its ambassador have strongly signalled that they want to move the embassy here from Tel Aviv and it might well – if it does move – come to this big purpose-built building I’m standing next to: the US Consulate. For those in the governing Likud party, moving the US embassy here would be a great coup.”

Listeners were not informed that the US Consulate is located on the Israeli side of the 1949 Armistice Agreement lines. Audiences then heard a conversation between Franks and an Israeli MK in which Franks further promoted without question the notion that building houses in Givat HaMatos would prevent a two-state solution.

Franks: “Among those sensing a change in the weather are members of this place: the Knesset – the Israeli parliament. Sharren Haskel is a Likud MK. She’s just back from Washington after being invited to the inauguration and she’s still outraged at the UN Security Council resolution last month condemning Israeli building on occupied territory.”

Haskel: “The international community comes and says it’s working with Israel to better the future of Israel but then they come and literally they stab us in the back, saying wording like that…that Jerusalem is not our capital? That this is the barrier to peace?”

Franks: “I don’t think they said Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.”

Haskel: “Well part of those areas that they are calling – they’re calling it the occupied territories – part of that is Jerusalem. And so the one who is actually the barrier towards peace are these declarations that come time after time, that are –you know – giving hope to the Palestinians that maybe one day the Jews will leave Jerusalem; that Jerusalem will not [no] longer be the capital of Israel. This is the barrier to peace. And for me, when the international community come and punch us in that kind of way, we can punch back. And the punch back can be 2,100 homes that are going to be built in Jerusalem, because it is our capital, and it is to have the flag of America flown on the new embassy in Jerusalem.”

Franks: “And yet the argument that is advanced by those in the Security Council and elsewhere who say that this building is a barrier to peace is that for example these new developments in East Jerusalem, they say that they cut Jerusalem off from the West Bank, from a future Palestinian state. If there were building, for example, in Givat HaMatos, that would mean Jerusalem is encircled and you couldn’t have a Palestinian state. So it’s not about the Jews being kicked out of Jerusalem but it’s about whether there is any hope of there being a separate Palestinian state alongside Israel.”

Haskel: “I’ll show you a map now of Jerusalem. You will see that it’s absolutely impossible to divide Jerusalem into a capital of two different countries. If we want to narrow this gap of hatred and violence, if we really want to create peace and co-existence, it’s very difficult by separating and creating physical borders on the field.”

Franks: “So a two-state solution; it’s fine words but it’s unrealistic, you’re saying.”

Haskel: “I’m saying any kind…you know the world is trying to picture as if there’s only one solution to the problem between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It’s not just one. It’s like this scale; like a grid that goes all the way from two states to two people to one state to two people. And then there’s many more solution on that grid too.”

Franks: “Except – I’m sorry, I’ve got to come back on you because as far as much of the rest of the world is concerned, unless you have a separate Palestinian state, Israel cannot continue to be a Jewish and democratic country.”

Haskel: “Why?”

Franks: “Because you wouldn’t be affording the Palestinians, whom you are currently ruling over, full rights.”

With that statement Franks erases from audience view the fact that for more than two decades the majority of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria have in fact lived under Palestinian Authority rule, with “full rights” to vote in PA elections and that those located in the Gaza Strip have not been under Israeli ‘rule’ for well over a decade.   

Haskel: “Well this is just your idea. It’s your idea how you picture one state if that’s happen. It can be with an Israeli citizenship to everybody. How does that contradict democracy?”

Franks: “But then you wouldn’t be able to ensure that there would be continued Jewish majority rule if it was citizenship for everybody because the demography is against you.”

Haskel: “Well that’s not true. But more than that, you know the reality that we will choose to live in, this is our decision. This is a decision that we will need to live and die by. So what I would say to the international community is just give us a little bit of credit that we know how to run our life. We know how to be the only democracy in the Middle East and we know how to maintain that.”

The item then turned to a conversation between Franks and programme presenter Razia Iqbal.

Iqbal: “Likud member of the Knesset Sharren Haskel. Eh…Tim, the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shown himself to be a tenacious politician. How strong a position is he in now given that he’s facing some serious corruption allegations?”

Franks: “Well the police have interviewed Mr Netanyahu several times, most recently at the end of last week, about these allegations. Ahm…allegations that he for example took gifts like more than $100,000 worth of cigars and pink champagne, apparently, possibly in return for asking the Americans to fast-track a visa for a businessman friend. There’s also been allegations that the publisher of a newspaper – it’s one of Israel’s big newspapers called Yediot Ahronot – ahm…he was asked to give more favourable coverage in return for new rules and the government reining in a free sheet called Israel HaYom which is very pro-Netanyahu and whose distribution – ‘cos it’s a free sheet – has been killing the newspapers which charge.

The legal system here is very strong and very independent. Other top politicians have gone to jail in the past but Mr Netanyahu is not a quitter and there doesn’t appear to be any great appetite in parliament or in his party or among coalition partners to bring him down. That said, the view is that all this pressure does make him more biddable to the Right and that’s something we’re going to be looking at later in the week. And before that, I should say, we’re heading to the place where the product of political dysfunction is at its most extreme, is most compressed, and that’s Gaza and that’s where we’ll be broadcasting from on Wednesday.”

In this very long report – over twelve and a half minutes – we once again see the BBC pushing a political narrative which frames the PLO’s interpretation of the two-state solution as the sole option. Yet again we see that the BBC steers audiences towards the view that the two-state solution is endangered by Israeli actions, while concealing no less relevant issues such as Palestinian terrorism, Palestinian Authority incitement, Hamas’ refusal to accept the two-state solution, the PA’s refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state and the Hamas-Fatah split.

While those editorial policies certainly advance the corporation’s chosen narrative on the issue of the peace process, they obviously do not contribute to meeting the BBC’s remit of building “global understanding” concerning the range of factors preventing the two-state solution from becoming reality.

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Another BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Israel special – part one

Just over two years have gone by since Tim Franks did a special feature on Jerusalem (see ‘related articles’ below) for the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ in which he went to visit the Givat HaMatos neighbourhood, where he discussed what was inaccurately represented as a ‘new’ development project with a representative from the political NGO ‘Ir Amim‘.

The January 30th 2017 edition of ‘Newshour’ found the same BBC reporter revisiting the same location with the founder of that same NGO.newshour-30-1

Franks’ very long report – over twelve and a half minutes – was billed by presenter Razia Iqbal as follows at the start of the programme:

“In about half an hour we’ll be live from Jerusalem with Newshour’s Tim Franks discussing settlements, the two-state solution and the impact of President Trump.”

The report itself (from 30:12 here) commenced with Franks explaining its rationale as being based on things “some say”:

Iqbal: “Let’s go now to Newshour’s Tim Franks in Jerusalem.”

Franks: “Razia, I’ve been coming to Jerusalem a fair bit over the last ten years. I used to live here as the BBC’s Middle East correspondent and there’s one refrain I’ve heard ahead of this trip which it feels like I’ve heard pretty much every time I’ve been back: nothing’s changed – it’s all just a bit worse. So is that right? Are we in a slightly dispiriting holding pattern or are we, as some say, at a tipping point? A moment when the reality on the ground, the new administration in Washington, mean that the stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians is going to enter a new, decisive phase? It’s a question we’re going to look at through the week in strikingly different locations across this small patch of land that Israelis and Palestinians share.”

First, the city that means so much to so many. We’re going to begin in the religious, the historical, the emotional heart of it all: in Jerusalem. I say Jerusalem; the Old City is about six or seven kilometres up the road from here. This is Givat HaMatos – an area of scrubland really – on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Just a couple of kilometres behind me to the south is the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. And I’m here with a man called Danny Seidemann – he’s an Israeli attorney and specialist on the mapping of Jerusalem. And Danny; Givat HaMatos matters in what way?”

As was the also case when Franks provided Seidemann with a platform in the programme from just over two years ago, that introduction is inadequate. Once again Franks failed to inform audiences that Seidemann is the founder of the foreign government funded (including the UK) political NGO Terrestrial Jerusalem and that he also founded Ir Amim.  That context – had it been supplied with an explanation of the political agenda of the organisations to which Seidemann is linked – would have better allowed BBC audiences to put his ensuing words – including his interpretation of the two-state solution – into their appropriate context.

Seidemann: “Givat HaMatos is pretty unique. It’s one of two or three schemes that we call a Doomsday settlement. These settlements are in and of themselves capable of making the two-state solution impossible. Why? The heart of the two-state solution is a very simple deal: end of occupation in exchange of a recognized border, legitimacy and security. End of occupation means that in any permanent status agreement, no Palestinians in East Jerusalem would be left under Israeli rule. And what that means is that all of East Jerusalem – the Palestinian built-up areas – will become part of the Palestinian state: a contiguous and viable Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and with all of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem no longer living under Israeli rule.”

Franks: “Danny, can I just interrupt you. How does that square with the avow by this government, by the mayor of Jerusalem, by countless generations of Israeli politicians, that Jerusalem will never be divided again?”

Seidemann: “I assert that the only place that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel that will never be re-divided is in the fertile imaginations of Right-wing ideologues. Jerusalem is a bi-national city. It is de facto a divided city and it is a hotly contested city. The question that remains is is it possible to take a pen and draw a line on a map that will carve out a viable and contiguous Palestinian city and leave in its wake an equally robust and viable Israeli city? Today that is possible. Once Givat HaMatos will be built it will no longer be possible. This can take place without further warning. As early as tomorrow morning the tenders for the construction of the first 1,500 units can be issued.”

Franks refrained from informing listeners that there is nothing remotely new about the plan to build housing in Givat HaMatos and that the neighbourhood was the site of temporary housing for new immigrants from the former USSR and Ethiopia from 1991 onwards, with initiatives to replace caravans with proper housing having first been proposed over a decade ago. He continued:

Franks: “What’s to stop, in that case, the Israeli government or the mayor of Jerusalem deciding that they do want to build here? There’s a terrible housing shortage in Jerusalem. Prices are through the roof. You’ve got a friendly administration in Washington. Why not build?”

Seidemann: “The popular image that Netanyahu has is that he is impervious to engagement and is not deterred. I disagree with that. There is a…has been…a wall to wall consensus internationally that there will be serious consequences in relations between Israel and the rest of the world should we pursue this and this has clearly deterred Netanyahu from doing so. Having said that, for the first time since 1967 and for the past ten days, we have a situation where there is an administration in Washington that apparently does not oppose settlements and some of the key people in the administration embrace settlements. And that means that the discreet mechanism that has applied the brakes on some of these detrimental developments is now gone. And nobody knows what the dynamics is going to be. The eventuality of construction in Givat HaMatos is greater today than ever it was in the past and its impact will be devastating.”

The BBC has been reporting on the Givat HaMatos project since 2012. Tim Franks should therefore be aware of the fact that since the beginning, half the proposed housing units there have been ear-marked for Arab residents of the adjacent neighborhood of Beit Safafa. However, he chose not to inform listeners of that fact before providing the next cue for his interviewee.

Franks: “What’s to say that – if there were building here in Givat HaMatos – that it would be, as you describe it, Israeli building? I mean the mayor of Jerusalem says ‘look, we build for Arabs, we build for Jews’. There’s not going to be any flags on the building saying ‘Jews only’.”

Seidemann: “As a rule that claim is entirely disingenuous. Israel built 55 thousand homes on lands expropriated from Palestinians and on paper it’s…”

Franks: “In East Jerusalem.”

Seidemann: “In East Jerusalem. On paper it’s available to everybody. The patterns of life are that Israelis and Palestinians live in separate areas and there are very, very few Palestinians residing in these areas and it is false innocence to claim otherwise.”

The interview with Seidemann ends there, with Franks failing to question the basic assertion which the BBC has been dutifully repeating and amplifying since 2012: that development of the Givat HaMatos neighbourhood would mean an end to the two-state solution. Likewise, Franks made no effort to challenge the assumption of ‘Palestinian land’ and failed to provide the all-important historical context of the 19-year Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem or the expulsion of Jews from parts of Jerusalem in 1948.

The inadequate introduction of Seidemann as “an Israeli attorney and specialist on the mapping of Jerusalem” breaches BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality which state that:

“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.”

Clearly audiences should have been informed of Seidemann’s links to NGOs with a very clear political agenda on this topic and the fact that they were not means that this item steered audiences towards viewing particular and partial political claims as fact.

The rest of this audio report will be discussed in part two of this post.  

Related Articles:

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ special edition from Jerusalem – part one

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ special edition from Jerusalem – part two

BBC radio marks Peres’ death with Palestinian propaganda – part two

Following his afternoon appearance on the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’, Mustafa Barghouti was back again on BBC radio on the evening of September 28th.

BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ – presented by Razia Iqbal – included an item (from 35:36 here) concerning the death earlier in the day of Israel’s ninth president Shimon Peres. Listeners heard one minute of recordings of statements by the Israeli prime minister and the leader of the opposition and Iqbal read short statements from the US President and Secretary of State as well as the Pope before introducing her next contributor.peres-the-world-tonight-r4-28-9

Iqbal: “Let’s get the perspective from a Palestinian now. Dr Mustafa Barghouti is a Palestinian legislator.”

Barghouti: “Well I believe of course it’s a sad moment for his family, for his colleagues but one has to say the political opinion about this person; I think to me he represents a very controversial figure. From one side when you compare him today with the leaders of Israel like Netanyahu, Lieberman and Bennett – who are extreme racists rejecting any possibility for peace – of course he looks moderate in comparison to them. But on the other hand one cannot forget that he was the father of settlement policies in the West Bank: the same settlement activities that are killing today the potential and possibility for peace. And he was personally, in my opinion, responsible for the flaws of Oslo Agreement which he orchestrated – the biggest of which was that the agreement was concluded without freezing or stopping settlement activities as we were demanding in Madrid. Instead of one hundred eleven thousand settlers then, we already have now 700 thousand settlers. So one wonders was it just a mistake or an intentional policy? Specially that I didn’t see Shimon Peres unfortunately advocate or call for the recognition of the Palestinian state although he kept talking about two state solution.”

Iqbal: “He did – in the run up to the Oslo Agreement – persuade Israel that the Palestine Liberation Organisation – the PLO, under Yasser Arafat – was the organisation that Israel should and could do business with.”

Barghouti: “That’s true but at the same time he made the PLO pay a very high price for that. He was very smart. He was even devious in this manner because he recognised the need of the PLO to get recognised as a partner. But in exchange he pushed the PLO to recognise Israel without demanding the recognition of Israel of a Palestinian state. I remember talking to Yasser Arafat at the very last weeks of his life and he told me something. We were sitting alone and he was in a very bad mood because he was being besieged and frustrated completely with the whole Oslo process and he said to me ‘we fell into a trap; they created a trap for us’. And I think that’s what it was. When we criticised Oslo in ’93/’94 few people listened to us but today, after 23 years, what do we have? More occupation and an occupation that will become 50 years next year – the longest in human history – and an occupation that has transformed into a system of apartheid much worse that what prevailed in South Africa.”

Iqbal: “When you talk about Shimon Peres being devious, here was a man who for the rest of the world was somebody who deserved to win the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Yasser Arafat.”

Barghouti: “Yes I know. They won peace prize – they won Nobel Peace prize with Itzhak Rabin for concluding the Oslo Agreement. I don’t want to sound ridiculous but at that time I said they deserved not the Nobel Prize but they deserved the Oscar because it was more of a show – a performance – rather than a change of reality. And the results today – 23 years after – are very clear. We still have the occupation, worse than any time before. We still have the settlement activities going at a speed that is unprecedented. We have fragmented Palestinian territories and everybody sees a process of assassination of the possibility of two state solution. This of course worries me at all a lot but at the same time it will not make us lose hope but it makes us more determined as Palestinians to demand our rights in a clear manner. We want real freedom. We want freedom from occupation and not an adjusted situation of occupation.”

Iqbal: “Legislator Dr Mustafa Barghouti with a Palestinian view of Shimon Peres.”

That propaganda rant – rich with inaccuracy and blatant falsehoods completely unchallenged by Razia Iqbal – went on for almost four and a half minutes. In other words, the producers of this programme found it editorially justifiable to allocate 77% of a five minute and 41 second item supposedly about a recently deceased Israeli statesman to “a Palestinian view” which contributed nothing whatsoever to audience understanding of the Oslo Accords, their sabotage by Palestinian terrorism or the reality of the situation today.  

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BBC radio marks Peres’ death with Palestinian propaganda – part one