BBC radio passes the microphone to Iranian propaganda

h/t SG

The January 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ – titled ‘Iran vows revenge for US killing of military leader’– included an early item (from 04:35 here) which was introduced by presenter Dan Damon thus:

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Damon: “I spoke to one of the loyal Iranian voices that we can reach in Tehran. He’s Dr Seyed Mohammad Marandi at the University of Tehran. He told me how important the General was to the people of Iran.”

Damon did not adequately clarify the meaning of that highlighted phrase and so audiences were unlikely to appreciate that they were about to hear largely unchallenged propaganda from a regime loyalist who has for years been rolled out to defend the Iranian regime in the English language mediaincluding the BBC

Marandi: “He’s very popular because he helped defeat ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria and Iraq. Many believe that if it wasn’t for him in Syria the capital would have fallen to the extremist forces that were backed by Saudi Arabia and other countries of the region as well as the United States. And the same is true with Iraq. Iraq was on the verge of collapse and he went there and personally commanded troops in both countries to prevent the fall of these capitals to these forces and people in Iran believe that if these two capitals had fallen we would be fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda and other such groups inside Iran today.”

Damon: “The United States says he also led operations that killed many American soldiers. Do you accept that?”

Marandi: “I think it’s somewhat ridiculous for the Americans to blame Iran for their illegal occupation of Iraq and to deny the Iraqi people agency. The Americans helped create Saddam Hussein – they created the monster that they later destroyed. They imposed sanctions on Iraq where roughly a million people were killed. Then they invaded the country illegally with…and lied about weapons of mass destruction and alleged links to Al Qaeda. They destroyed the country and then after they helped create the mess in Syria by supporting extremist forces, those forces came into Iraq and the Americans refused to help Iraq when ISIS was advancing on the capital. So the United States is in no position to complain about anything in this part of the world.”

Damon made no effort to question or challenge that account.

Damon: “Why was Major General Soleimani so vulnerable? We all knew, didn’t we, that he was being monitored by the Americans very closely. Why wasn’t he protected?”

Marandi: “He was on an official visit. He entered the country through the Iraqi airport. There was nothing secret about his visit and he was met by senior Iraqi military officials who were also murdered [sic] by the US army. The Iranians believe that this is an act of war and the Iraqis believe that this is an act of war because they also killed a senior Iraqi military hero. And the Americans should not be fooled by the former Saddam Hussein supporters or ISIS supporters or American NGO people who are celebrating in Baghdad. We’ll see soon where public opinion in Iraq stands and how that will impact the US occupation in Iraq.”

Even that highlighted propaganda failed to prompt any challenge from Damon.

Damon: “President Donald Trump says he doesn’t want war and he doesn’t think Iran wants war because, to quote him, it would be very short. Do you think that’s right?”

Marandi: “The Americans will not win in any war in this region. Iran is not alone. Iran’s allies in Yemen, in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, across the board are on the ascendance and Iraqis themselves are outraged by this act of war against Iraqis. The murder of innocent Iraqi soldiers on the front line against ISIS by American troops. Iran is a very powerful country. Iran is not the Iraq of Saddam Hussein and the Americans are in a very vulnerable position and American allies in the region are very vulnerable. This is not a war that the Americans can win. But the Iranians will definitely respond to the United States and the Iraqis will definitely respond to the United States. There will be a heavy price to pay.”

Referring to one of Marandi’s ‘contributions’ to Iranian English language TV earlier in the day, Damon went on:

Damon: “I think you said on Iranian TV that all Westerners should leave the Middle East. What did you mean?”

Marandi: “The situation is very dangerous. Western citizens in the United Arab Emirates and in other countries should leave because the United States has bases in all these countries and Iraq and countries like the Emirates, Saudi Arabia are a part of the US war against the Iranian people [sic].”

Damon closed that interview there. Those four minutes of unchallenged Iranian regime propaganda (in which the attack on the US embassy in Baghdad and other relevant events were completely whitewashed) were promoted separately by the BBC World Service and embedded into the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ updates – without any indication to audiences of Marandi’s regime connections.

Four days later Marandi was back on the BBC airwaves. The January 7th edition of the BBC Radio 5 live programme ‘Up All Night’ – hosted by Rhod Sharp – gave him over fifteen minutes of airtime (from 3:06:25 here) after having introduced him using only his academic titles.

Marandi began by describing Soleimani as a “war hero” who, during the Iran-Iraq war, had survived chemical weapons attacks. He went on to promote a lie he has been peddling for over a decade, claiming that those chemical weapons “were provided to Saddam Hussein by European countries and the United States”.

Sharp failed to provide any challenge to that falsehood or to the subsequent claim that Soleimani “helped the Palestinians and their cause…ah…they’re…they live under apartheid and colonisation.”

He was similarly silent when Marandi claimed that it was a US objective to “create a Salafist state between Syria and Iraq”.

Marandi’s falsehoods and conspiracy theories continued unquestioned until Sharp closed the item by reminding listeners of his academic titles but with no mention of his regime connections.

Obviously the amplification of Iranian regime approved propaganda does not meet the BBC’s public purpose remit of providing “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of all parts of the United Kingdom and of the wider world” – especially when that propaganda goes unquestioned and unchallenged by underinformed BBC presenters clearly trying to fill airtime. Moreover, the damage done to audience understanding of the story is exacerbated when audiences are not informed (as required by BBC editorial guidelines) of the relevant context of the contributor’s “particular viewpoint” and affiliations  and he is presented as a supposedly neutral and reliable ‘academic’.

 

 

BBC’s Knell amplifies PA narrative, mainstreams BDS on late-night BBC Radio 5

On March 27th BBC Radio 5 live’s late night show ‘Up All Night’ featured an item with the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell. The programme can be heard here for a limited period of time and the relevant section begins from around 37:15. Up All Night

Presenter Rhod Sharp introduces the item:

“US Secretary of State John Kerry interrupted his trip to Europe on Wednesday to rush to Israel. He wanted to urge the Palestinians and Israelis to extend their peace talks which seem to be faltering maid fears that Israel may scrap plans to free a final batch of Palestinian prisoners. With more on this, I’ve been speaking to Yolande Knell on the West Bank.”

Kerry of course flew to Amman in Jordan – not to Israel.

Yolande Knell opens:

“He broke away from this trip – President Obama’s talks in Europe on the crisis in the Ukraine. I think the fact he’s done this just underscores the seriousness of the threat to the peace talks that he sees. Ahm…the peace talks of course going on between Israel and the Palestinians – a process in which he has invested so much energy already – and so what he did, he broke away…ahm…and came to Amman just yesterday and he is supposed to have had talks last night – after having a meeting with the King of Jordan – with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. We were told he was going to have a working dinner with him and he was supposed to speak to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by video conference or by phone as well.

And what US officials say is that his aim is to narrow the gaps in peace talks but really, if you speak to either side, they’ll say there’s been little real progress on the core issues but what’s thrown these talks into crisis right now…ahm…because they’re supposed to go on until the end of April – that was…when the US managed to broker a return to the negotiating table last year. But now we have the scheduled release of the fourth and final batch of more than a hundred Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails scheduled for this weekend. It was part of a deal that Israel struck with the Palestinians to get the peace talks restarted and what the Palestinians agreed was in return they wouldn’t take action against Israel at the UN…ahm… through the UN bodies to which they got access after their status was upgraded. And so…ah…really now Israel is saying it doesn’t want to go ahead with this prisoner release at the moment. There’s been talk of how the Palestinians should…ah…reach a framework agreement. We understand that the Americans are supposed to be putting a framework agreement to both sides before this happens. Ahm…and the Palestinians saying that if the prisoner release doesn’t happen as scheduled then they will perhaps go to the UN, take other means and the talks could very well fall apart.”

Knell makes no effort to inform listeners that the prisoner releases were from the very beginning tied to progress in the talks – which she admits has not been forthcoming. Neither of course does she bother to mention the incitement and glorification of terrorism which was seen during the Palestinian Authority organised celebrations of the three previous tranches or the cash hand-outs awarded to the released terrorists.

Sharp then asks:

RS: “Well but why would Israel not release the prisoners as scheduled?”

YK: “Well, these prisoner releases have been particularly divisive – in fact for both sides. What you’re talking about here is long-term Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Many of them have been convicted of serious offences like murdering Israelis so Israelis see them as convicted terrorists. On the Palestinian side, these are people who have sacrificed their lives in some way, with the long prison sentences that they’ve been through, for the nationalist cause.”

Knell’s promotion of the notion of terrorists convicted in a court of law as ‘heroes’ is of course not new: such portrayal was a hallmark of her reporting of previous prisoner releases and is part and parcel of the BBC’s policy of presentation of a morally equivalent view of terrorism – in some parts of the world.

She goes on:

“So already you have something which is a very emotive topic and then we’ve had Israeli families objecting to these releases – they’ve been staging protests – and what we’ve seen with all of the previous batches is that…ahm…those opposed within the Israeli coalition government, these have helped push through settlement announcements…ahm…which have threatened to undermine the peace talks repeatedly each time there has been a prisoner release. Ahm…and then you’ve got different people speaking out – different politicians – the deputy defence minister Danny Danon – a member of Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party – threatening to resign if this prisoner release went ahead.”

In other words, audiences are herded towards the view that Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism does not “undermine the peace talks”, whereas Israeli building tenders most certainly do. Notably too, Knell completely neglects to inform listeners of the PA’s demand that in this particular tranche, Israel release convicted terrorists who are not residents of Palestinian controlled areas, but Israeli citizens.

Knell continues:

“Another thing that the Israelis seem to be worried about is they want assurances that Mr Abbas won’t walk away from the peace talks straight after this prisoner release because – as I say – if you speak to the Palestinians they’ll say that there has been no progress on the core issues on Jerusalem, the issue of Palestinian refugees, settlements and borders; the things that they want to talk about. They say that Israel has side-tracked the talks talking about the Jordan Valley….ahm….the Palestinians say they won’t give up control of their eastern border of the West Bank and Israel’s saying they want to keep a military presence there for security reasons.”

Beyond the fact that Knell has invented a Palestinian “eastern border” which does not exist, clearly her presentation of discussions on the subject of the Jordan Valley – in other words a discussion about borders – as having “side-tracked” the talks is an obvious and partial promotion of the PA’s narrative.  She goes on:

“And then there’s this other issue which has been so thorny as well, about recognising Israel as a Jewish state – that’s another one of Israel’s demands.”

The Israeli demand is of course for PA recognition of Israel as the Jewish state – not a Jewish state and as has been the case in all previous BBC coverage of this topic, no attempt whatsoever is made to inform audiences of the reasons for Israel’s demand and its significance as regards an end to future claims and hence its role in bringing about an end to the conflict. Sharp then says:

RS: “Let’s turn to the Arab League. Ah…here’s a thought: the Arab League of course has seemed a bit more modern in recent times but Arab leaders did what they’ve been quite used to doing in the past.”

Knell’s reply includes further promotion of the PA narrative through – inter alia – use of the offensive term “Judaisation of Jerusalem” and the depiction of Arab Israelis as “1948 Palestinians”.

YK: “Well, actually it all relates back to this Jewish state issue and it was one of the few points that the Arab leaders could all agree on after this two-day annual summit that’s just taken place in Kuwait. And the statement they ended with has actually strengthened Mr Abbas’ hand I think in many ways and made Mr Kerry’s job potentially more difficult because they came out with a statement saying that they totally rejected…ahm…. the call to consider Israel a Jewish state and then they also talked about other things like Jewish settlements, the Judaisation of Jerusalem – these kind of things. Ahm…they’d heard from President Abbas at the beginning of the summit when he said that Palestinians reject even discussing this issue of a Jewish state because for them it’s all caught up with the fate of Palestinian refugees who were forced out of their homes, who fled in 1948 when Israel became a state. Ahm….and also it’s about the rights of Arab Israelis – the 20% of the population of Israel who are these 1948 Palestinians as they’re also known – what of their rights if the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state? So it is a very complicated subject and that’s one that the Arab League countries – 22 of them – seem to have united on in terms of backing President Abbas and his stance.”

Knell makes no effort to explain to listeners that Palestinian refugees were not for the most part “forced out of their homes” but in many cases were urged to leave by the five Arab armies which instigated a war Knell does not apparently find it necessary to even mention. She neglects to inform audiences that PA recognition of Israel as the Jewish state in no way presents any kind of threat to the rights of Arab Israelis and she fails to make clear the ‘end game’ of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ of refugees.

After Knell speaks about other Arab League related issues, Sharp says:

“Let’s turn away from politics. Well we think we’re turning away from politics to the world of entertainment but it seems that they have got awfully mixed up here. Why are the Rolling Stones in trouble?”

YK: “Well, they’re not in trouble with everybody. Certainly the Israelis are delighted with them at the moment because this week the Rolling Stones were officially booked basically to perform their first ever concert in Israel. It’s gonna be on the 4th of June we’re told in Tel Aviv and later today the tickets are expected to go on sale online and big prices: well over a hundred British pounds up to about 500 British pounds I’m told. Ahm…but yes there have been all sorts of puns in the Israeli press. After months – even years- of speculation, Israelis can finally get some satisfaction it said in the Jerusalem Post. But the people who are outraged are the Palestinians and supporters of the Palestinians because of course there is this call for a cultural boycott of Israel and protest at the occupation of Palestinian land by Israel with the occupation being seen as illegal under international law.”

Besides erroneously presenting the BDS movement as “supporters of the Palestinians” rather than a politically motivated campaign to delegitimise and dismantle Israel, Knell mainstreams the so-called “cultural boycott”, promotes the partisan narrative of “Palestinian land” and fails to inform listeners of the existence of alternative views regarding “international law”, in clear breach of BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality.

Not for the first time by any means we see Yolande Knell acting as a mouthpiece for unadulterated amplification of the PA narrative in this radio interview. The type of terminology she chooses to use, her presentation of a morally equivalent view of terrorism and her mainstreaming of BDS are part and parcel of the promotion of that narrative.

Notably too, this interview joins numerous other BBC reports in failing to even try to clarify to BBC audiences the rationale behind the Israeli demand for recognition of Israel as the Jewish state and why the issue of that Palestinian – and wider Arab – recognition is crucial to the success of any agreement.

With the negotiations having reached such a critical point, it is vital that the BBC adhere to its public purposes and begin clarifying that issue to audiences.  

Related Articles:

BBC already setting the scene for ME talks collapse

BBC audiences are not being updated on ME talks

BBC continues to self-censor on the issue of PA recognition of Israel

Accuracy and impartiality issues in BBC report on Abbas White House visit

BBC’s Knell promotes already debunked claims in ‘Jewish state’ article