BBC Radio 4 fails to clarify a commentator’s ‘particular viewpoint’

The February 4th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ included an item concerning Venezuela which presenter Ritula Shah brought to a close with a question (from 23:31 here) on a different topic to one of her interviewees – Chris Williamson – whom she had earlier introduced as a “Labour MP and close ally of Jeremy Corbyn”.

The question related to a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party held on the same evening.

Shah: “I want to ask you one more question. Labour MPs tonight have unanimously passed a motion calling for the party leadership to do more to tackle antisemitism and the MPs accuse the party’s general secretary Jennie Formby, who was at the meeting, of ignoring the demands and refusing to give the answers they wanted. You weren’t at that meeting, I know, but you have been at odds with those levelling accusations of antisemitism at Labour’s structure. I wonder what you make of tonight’s move.” [emphasis added]

Williamson: “Well I think it’s an incredibly unfair criticism of Jennie Formby. She’s done more than any previous general secretary to address a backlog of complaints, including antisemitism. She’s appointed an in-house counsel. She’s expanded the national constitutional committee that deals with serious…ehm…accusations of mis…of misdeeds and she’s increased staff to deal with this matter.”

Shah: “So you don’t think the MPs are justified?”

Williamson: “No absolutely not. I think it’s incredibly unfair. Jennie’s done more than anybody to deal with the cancer of antisemitism and we have to stand united against antisemitism and all forms of bigotry and racism and she’s done precisely that.”

The BBC’s domestic audience would of course have been better equipped to judge that predictable messaging from Williamson had they first been informed what Shah meant by “at odds with those levelling accusations of antisemitism at Labour’s structure”.

Williamson has not simply disagreed with allegations of antisemitism within the Labour party. In a 2017 interview with the Guardian:

“He said rows over Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism within Labour and his approach to Venezuela were “proxy wars and bullshit”.

“I’m not saying it never ever happens but it is a really dirty, lowdown trick, particularly the antisemitism smears. Many people in the Jewish community are appalled by what they see as the weaponisation of antisemitism for political ends.”

Williamson subsequently described reactions to those comments as “positively sinister” and in 2018 portrayed antisemitism related disciplinary actions within the Labour party as “ridiculous suspensions and expulsions from the party… in the most grotesque and unfair way”.

While a person who publicly states that antisemitism has been ‘weaponised’ and that concerns about racism in the Labour party are “smears” and “bullshit” may not have been the best choice of commentator on the meeting that was the topic of Shah’s question, clearly audience understanding of his comments would have been enhanced had his stance on the core issue been better clarified in line with the BBC editorial guideline concerning the “need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint”.

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An overview of BBC reporting on Operation Northern Shield

On January 13th the IDF announced that with the discovery of a sixth tunnel, it had completed the mission to expose the tunnels dug by the Lebanese terror organisation Hizballah which passed under the international border, infiltrating Israeli territory.

“The tunnel, which had been dug at a depth of 55 meters (180 feet), was the most important one detected since the operation began in December, IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said.

According to him, the stairs were built in the tunnel which contained “railroads to transport equipment, garbage, lighting equipment and ladders to enter Israeli territory. A lot of resources were invested in this tunnel.”

With the latest tunnel discovered and its destruction in the coming days, he added, “the threat posed by the tunnels has been eliminated.” […]

While the military announced the end of the operation, it noted that it “is simultaneously monitoring several locations where Hezbollah is digging underground structures which have yet to cross into Israel.””

With Operation Northern Shield now coming to an end, this is an appropriate time to review the accuracy and impartiality of the BBC’s coverage of that story throughout the six weeks of the mission.

The story of an internationally recognised terrorist group tunneling under an international border into a neighbouring country with the intention of carrying out a large-scale attack actually got remarkably little BBC coverage.

Visitors to the BBC News website saw two reports throughout the six-week operation:

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation  December 4th 2018

More lazy BBC reporting on Hizballah’s tunnels December 19th 2018

Listeners to BBC World Service radio also heard two reports on the same days:

BBC WS radio host questions “factual accuracy” of purpose of Hizballah tunnels December 4th 2018

Razia Iqbal: “Well given that a war with Israel would not be in the interests of Hizballah, one wonders about the…err…the accuracy or the factual accuracy of those tunnels being potentially used for the way in which Israel is alleging that Hizballah might use them.”

Razia Iqbal: “Why do you think that Israel has made the announcement of cutting off these tunnels today? Is there any sense that this is a diversionary tactic to take attention away from Benjamin Netanyahu’s shaky coalition?”

BBC WS radio’s ‘World Update’ misleads on UN SC resolution 1701 December 19th 2018

The BBC’s domestic Radio 4 audiences heard one report the day after the story broke:

A BBC Radio 4 presenter ‘explains’ UN SC resolution 1701 December 5th 2018

Ritula Shah: “UN Security Council 1701, by the way, called for a full cessation of hostilities in the month-long war between Israel and Hizballah back in 2006.”

Ritula Shah: “Mr Netanyahu’s critics argue that he’s using the discovery of the tunnels to bolster his image at a time when his governing coalition is faltering and he faces mounting legal problems.”

In addition to Razia Iqbal’s unwarranted questioning of the purpose of the tunnels and the promotion by both her and Ritula Shah of the baseless notion that the operation was motivated by political considerations, audiences saw three main characteristics throughout the BBC’s reporting on this story.

In all but the first BBC News website report – where the information was added later – audiences were not given an accurate portrayal of Hizballah’s designation as a terror organisation by numerous countries and bodies. The subject of Iran’s funding and supplying of the terror organisation was grossly downplayed in the two written articles and ignored in the three audio reports.

In all of the reports the crucially relevant topic of UN Security Council resolution 1701 was either completely ignored or inadequately presented. Not one of the five BBC reports gave audiences an accurate explanation of that resolution or how it has been repeatedly violated by Hizballah for over twelve years. Moreover, in the second BBC WS radio report listeners were inaccurately led to believe that the only violation of that resolution comes in the form of tunnels that cross into Israeli territory.

Relatedly, BBC audiences were not given the full picture of the UN peacekeeping force’s failure to identify cross-border tunnels dug over a significant period of time literally under its nose and its serial failure to prevent violations of the UNSC resolution. In the second BBC WS radio report a UNIFIL spokesman’s statements went unchallenged.

Martin Patience: “Israel has accused the United Nations peacekeeping force which patrols the border area of turning a blind eye to the movement but Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force, says that the troops are doing their job.”

Not only was it suggested to audiences in forty percent of the BBC’s reporting that Operation Northern Shield was actually a cynical politically motivated exercise but the corporation failed throughout six whole weeks to produce even one item which would provide its funding public with the full range of background information necessary for proper understanding of the story of a complex operation which, had it been managed and executed less efficiently, could have sparked a major conflict.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio’s ‘World Update’ misleads on UN SC resolution 1701

More lazy BBC reporting on Hizballah’s tunnels

BBC News side-lining cross border tunnels story

A BBC Radio 4 presenter ‘explains’ UN SC resolution 1701

BBC WS radio host questions “factual accuracy” of purpose of Hizballah tunnels

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

 

A BBC Radio 4 presenter ‘explains’ UN SC resolution 1701

As documented here previously, two BBC reports on Operation Northern Shield that appeared on December 4th both failed to provide audiences with the background information concerning UN Security Council resolution 1701 which would enhance their understanding of the story of the Hizballah constructed cross-border attack tunnels.

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

BBC WS radio host questions “factual accuracy” of purpose of Hizballah tunnels

So what happened the following day when a BBC presenter did actually manage to utter the words “UN Security Council” and “1701”?

The December 5th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included an item (from 29:19 here) introduced by Ritula Shah thus: [emphasis in bold added]

Shah: “Expose and thwart: that’s what Israel’s calling its operation to block tunnels dug into its territory by the Hizballah movement in Lebanon. It said it was neutralising the terror tunnels before they became operational and a threat to civilian communities. Speaking at a press conference, the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the tunnels posed a grave threat.”

Following that whitewashed description of an internationally designated terror group, listeners heard a recording of Netanyahu speaking at that press conference the previous evening, including his description of the tunnels as “a gross violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701”.

Shah immediately told listeners that:

Shah: “UN Security Council 1701, by the way, called for a full cessation of hostilities in the month-long war between Israel and Hizballah back in 2006.”

That information of course would have done nothing to help listeners understand why Netanyahu referred to that UNSC resolution in his comments. But, like her colleagues, Ritula Shah obviously had no intention of telling her listeners that UNSC resolution 1701 also includes the following:

“Emphasises the importance of the extension of the control of the government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) and resolution 1680 (2006), and of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, for it to exercise its full sovereignty, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the government of Lebanon;”

Shah’s listeners were also not told that the 2006 resolution calls for the area between the Lebanese-Israeli border and the Litani river to be “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL”, that it calls for all “armed groups in Lebanon” to be disarmed, that it forbids the presence of “foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its Government” and “sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government”.

Neither did they hear any explanation of the fact that the task of implementing that resolution was given to UNIFIL and that it is now obvious that years of cross-border tunnel construction had taken place literally under that UN organisation’s nose.

Instead of supplying BBC Radio 4 audiences with that crucial information, Shah preferred to promote a theme advanced by her World Service colleagues the previous day.

Shah: “But the Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni has accused the prime minister of blowing the incident out of proportion. Mr Netanyahu’s critics argue that he’s using the discovery of the tunnels to bolster his image at a time when his governing coalition is faltering and he faces mounting legal problems. Anshel Pfeffer has written a biography of Benjamin Netanyahu and is also a correspondent for the Ha’aretz newspaper in Israel. He joins me now. […] Is this in a sense being exploited by Benjamin Netanyahu?”

Unsurprisingly given that, as the programme’s producers probably knew, he had published a column promoting that very claim earlier the same day – Pfeffer replied that it “feels that way” and claimed that the exposure of the tunnels on Israel’s northern border is “not a new operation”. As he claimed that the “timing and especially the media fanfare which has accompanied this” were aimed at “boosting the standing of the new defence minister” (but without telling listeners that the operation had actually been approved by the cabinet before Netanyahu became defence minister), Shah interrupted:

Shah: “So why? Why would he choose to do this now?”

Pfeffer replied that critics claim that Netanyahu is “using this to deflect attention from his own legal troubles” and that “it’s certainly a useful diversion for Netanyahu”.

Shah: “So he faces legal issues, his coalition is fragile, but what about his popularity? Isn’t he someone that Israelis trust in a sense with their security?”

Pfeffer responded by referencing opinion polls.

Shah: “So he’s involved in a couple of separate criminal investigations but could you argue that Tzipi Livni – the opposition leader – in a sense is being just as politically opportunist in pointing up these issues?”

Pfeffer described that as a “fair argument”, pointing out that the opposition is “not popular with the public” and “so when Netanyahu uses this opportunity to present himself as the commander-in-chief, their frustration naturally only grows.”

So what did the BBC’s domestic radio audiences learn from this item about the cross-border attack tunnels dug by a terrorist organisation into the territory of a neighbouring country and the twelve year-old UN Security Council resolution that should have prevented that violation of Israel’s sovereignty from taking place? Absolutely nothing.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio host questions “factual accuracy” of purpose of Hizballah tunnels

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

 

BBC’s Bateman recycles the ‘cultural censorship’ theme

There is nothing remotely novel about the BBC telling its audiences dark (but inaccurate) tales of supposed cultural censorship in Israel.

On December 4th the BBC’s Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman returned to that theme with a report (another version of which was also promoted by Bateman on Twitter) aired on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ which was introduced by presenter Ritula Shah (from 36:37 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Shah: “Israel’s culture minister Miri Regev is taking on the Israeli arts world, accusing some of pursuing anti-Israel narratives in state funded works or even of glorifying terrorism. So what happens when the state takes on the often subversive world of art? The story recently reached its [unintelligible] over the fate of the government bill that would see such productions defunded. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Failing to correctly pronounce the name of the theatre at which he recorded the piano music listeners heard at the beginning of his report, Bateman began:

Bateman: “Soothing tones in Tel Aviv’s Tmuna Theatre but they barely muffle the battle cries close by. This stage is on the front line in Israel’s culture wars – or as some here would have it, the war on culture waged by the government. The target of opprobrium for the actors is Miri Regev; Israel’s combative culture minister.”

Following a recording of an excerpt from a play, Bateman went on to refer to “Israel’s so-called cultural loyalty bill”, asserting that:

Bateman: “The planned law has been a flagship for the former military censor turned minister of culture, Miri Regev.”

He continued:

Bateman: “This scrap between politicians and performers has tugged at old tensions in Israel over free expression against the demands of national security, over the nationalism of the right versus claims of discrimination against Israel’s Arab minority – all in a bill that would allow the culture minister to strip public funds from works seen as inciting violence or insulting the symbols of the state.”

So is Bateman’s portrayal of the bill accurate? At no point in this report did he bother to tell BBC audiences that the bill is actually a proposed amendment to existing legislation – the Culture and Arts Law of 2002.

The proposal is an addition to that law which would allow the minister of culture and sport to reduce or cut state funding to a body which engaged in any of five activities which are already defined in an existing law passed in 1985 when the prime minister of Israel was (the hardly ‘right-wing’) Shimon Peres.

Clause 3b of the Budget Principles Law already allows the minister of finance (after consultation with the appropriate minister, legal advisors and after hearing the relevant body) to reduce or cut state funding to bodies which act “against the state’s principles”.  The actions which would justify such a decision include negating the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, inciting racism, violence and terror, supporting armed conflict or terror acts against the State of Israel by an enemy country or a terrorist organisation, presenting Israel’s Independence Day or day of founding as a day of mourning and acts of vandalism or physical debasement which harm the honour of the country’s flag or state symbols.

The bill proposed by Minister Regev states that any cultural body has the right to choose to engage in any of the above activities – i.e. freedom of expression – but that the minister of culture and sport would have the authority to decide that the state would not fund such activity.

Tom Bateman, however, continued his tale of supposed cultural censorship.

Bateman: “A play at the Tmuna Theatre has been in the culture minister’s sights. She demanded it pull the production about the Arab-Israeli poet Dareen Tatour who was jailed earlier this year for inciting violence and supporting a terrorist organisation. Tatour’s defence team said at the time her trial amounted to the criminalisation of poetry. The play’s writer, Einat Weitzman, accuses the minister of curbing the artistic freedom to portray a complex national history.”

After listeners have heard from Weitzman, Bateman continues with his caricature of the proposed bill.

Bateman: “But why, asks the culture minister, should arts elites and the left-wing get public money for siding with what she sees as an anti-Israel narrative? Self-flagellation she calls it.”

While Bateman did not include any response from the culture minister herself or her office in this report, he did – like his Middle East editor before him – go to the trouble of interviewing a junior MK with no direct connection to the story – Oren Hazan – before presenting a his version of a story from 2016.

Bateman: “Artists have protested, finding ever more curious ways to satirise the culture minister’s dislike of funding anything that insults the symbols of the state. A performer called Ariel Bronz took to the stage after Miri Regev gave a speech two years ago and bared his backside, into which he inserted an Israeli flag.”

The account given by the Ha’aretz newspaper – which organised that event – is somewhat different.

“At the beginning of the conference, which was held at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Bronz performed a selection from his show “Love the Juice,” which is being staged at the Klipa Theater and shows the “upheaval” his alter ego undergoes – from an enthusiastic left-wing activist to proud Zionist who decides to act to bring Jews to Israel.

The scene, during which Bronz stripped and was left wearing only a short pink skirt, aroused fury among some guests who started booing him. At one point, he pelted them with oranges that he had squeezed as part of the act. Chaos erupted and there were calls to remove him from the stage. Later, he was asked to conclude the scene but he claimed the amount of time allotted to him was not over and insisted on remaining onstage.

Bronz then began waving a small flag and, according to him, then spontaneously inserted it into his backside in front of the audience. In the end, security guards came and ushered him from the stage.”

Only at the end of his almost five-minute-long report did Bateman (using typically contorted metaphors) bother to mention that the proposed bill which is the subject of his report is actually no longer news.

Bateman: “The bill though has been sinking amid the waves of political crisis crashing around Israel’s coalition government. At a heated press conference last week Miri Regev accused fellow ministers prepared to derail it of giving state cash to what she called terrorists and Jew-haters. She postponed a vote on the bill and its future is now uncertain. Loyalty, it seemed, was not forthcoming from some fellow ministers – let alone from the rebellious world of art.”

The postponement of voting on the bill took place on November 26th. Nevertheless, nine days later the BBC found it appropriate to promote a tale of a “war on culture”, “nationalism of the right” and “curbing artistic freedom” while airbrushing many of the details necessary for audience understanding of the complete story.

Related Articles:

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Terrorists and rockets disappear in BBC news reports

h/t AB

When the BBC News website reported the November 11th incident east of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip in which an Israeli Special Forces officer was killed and another wounded in an exchange of fire that also left six Hamas members and one PRC operative dead, it correctly noted that following the incident, seventeen rockets had been launched from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilian communities.

However, several other BBC reports have erased those rocket attacks and/or the fact that all the Palestinians killed in the incident were members of terror groups.

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ on November 12th were informed in a news bulletin (from 24:47 here) that: [emphasis in bold added]

“Israeli Special Forces have carried out a raid on the Gaza Strip. An Israeli officer, a Hamas military commander and another six Palestinians were killed during the operation.” [emphasis added]

No mention was made at all of the subsequent launch of 17 missiles at Israeli civilian targets by Gaza Strip based terrorists.

In a news bulletin aired in the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on the same day (from 01:04:30 here), listeners were told that:

“An Israeli army officer and seven Palestinians including a militant commander have been killed in the Gaza Strip during what was reported to have been an intelligence gathering operation by Israeli Special Forces It led to heavy Israeli air strikes and the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel. Here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Bateman likewise told listeners that “among the seven Palestinians killed was a local commander of Hamas’ armed wing” and failed to note the rocket fire.

The same story was the lead item in the November 12th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ and listeners were told by presenter Razia Iqbal (from 00:11 here) that:

Iqbal: “On Sunday a covert Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip resulted in the deaths of seven Palestinians including one Hamas commander and one Israeli soldier – a Lieutenant Colonel. The subsequent firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza threatens to upend an uneasy peace [sic].”

Later on in the item, while talking to Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad, Iqbal remarked:

Iqbal: “But there was also a big significant loss on your side. Apart from the six other people who were killed, a senior Hamas commander, Nur Baraka.”

Iqbal also subsequently failed to challenge her Hamas interviewee’s claim that “they [Israel] killed seven civilians yesterday”.

As we have already seen, in the November 12th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ presenter Ritula Shah likewise portrayed terror operatives as “Palestinians” and erased the subsequent rocket fire from audience view.

Shah: “An undercover operation that went awry and left seven Palestinians and an Israeli officer dead has sparked an escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip.”

The 17 rocket attacks were also omitted from a BBC News website report published on November 13th and from another BBC News website article that appeared on November 14th with early versions stating:

“The latest violence began after an Israeli special forces undercover operation in Gaza was exposed on Sunday, triggering clashes that left seven Palestinian militants and one Israeli soldier dead.”

There is no doubt whatsoever that the BBC knows full well that all seven of those killed near Khan Younis on November 11th were operatives in terror factions and that it is well aware that Gaza Strip based terrorists subsequently fired seventeen missiles at civilian targets in Israel.

There can hence be no justification whatsoever for the repeated withholding of that relevant information from BBC audiences on various platforms.

Related Articles:

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Sloppy BBC News report omits rocket hits on Israeli homes

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BBC Radio 4: nothing to see in southern Israel, move along to Gaza

As we saw yesterday the BBC News website was not interested in telling BBC audiences about the numerous terrorists’ missiles which hit the homes and businesses of Israeli civilians in places such as Ashkelon, Sederot and Netivot on November 12th.

If readers are wondering whether the BBC’s domestic radio audiences got any better coverage, the answer to that question can be found by taking a look at BBC Radio 4’s November 12th edition of ‘The World Tonight’, presented by Ritula Shah.

Near the beginning of the programme (from 05:26 here) listeners heard a news bulletin in which newsreader Chris Aldridge indulged himself with a less than accurate and impartial description of an Israeli Special Forces operation the previous night.

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

Aldridge: “Around 300 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, prompting a wave of Israeli airstrikes. It follows what appears to have been a botched undercover Israeli operation in Gaza yesterday in which 7 Palestinians and one Israeli were killed. Our correspondent Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “A 19 year-old Israeli man was seriously hurt when a bus was hit by an anti-tank missile fired from the Strip. Israel said its fighter jets had targeted militant sites in Gaza in response to the barrage. Health officials in the Strip say two Palestinians have been killed – reportedly members of a militant faction. This significant escalation of hostilities makes the immediate prospects of a truce between Israel and Hamas even more unlikely, following a series of violent clashes in recent months which a UN and Egyptian brokered process was trying to calm. Militants in Gaza vowed to take revenge after yesterday’s incident in which undercover Israeli Special Forces were involved in an intense exchange of fire with Gaza based militants.”

By the time Radio 4 listeners heard that report homes in at least four Israeli communities had been hit by the terrorists’ missile fire and at least 34 people had needed medical treatment. Bateman however did not find that – or who fired the anti-tank missile; a detail also known by that time – worth mentioning.

Later on in the programme (from 30:00 here) listeners heard Ritula Shah describe members of terror factions merely as “Palestinians” and claim that the “escalation of violence” was happening – exclusively – “in the Gaza Strip” while concealing the fact that the rocket attacks were still ongoing as she spoke.

Shah: “An undercover operation that went awry and left 7 Palestinians and an Israeli officer dead has sparked an escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli air force has conducted strikes on the territory in retaliation for rockets fired into Israel earlier today. Video footage showed the rockets being launched – white smoky trails against a blue sky – while sirens sounded to warn Israelis to take cover. Israel said it had struck more than 70 militant sites in Gaza in response to more than 200 rockets fired from there. For the people of Gaza this escalation of violence comes after apparent progress in an Egyptian and UN backed mediation process following a series of clashes between the two sides in recent months. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since the end of March, most during weekly protests along the border at which thousands have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

By the time Shah was speaking around 300 rockets and mortars – not 200 – had been fired at Israeli civilian targets. Predictably she adhered to the BBC’s standard framing of the ‘Great Return March’, concealing the fact that what she euphemistically portrayed as “protests” were in fact violent riots organised by terror factions and that a significant proportion of those killed were linked to those terror groups. Likewise Shah did not bother to inform listeners that the purpose of the demand for the so-called ‘right of return’ is the eradication of Israel.

With listeners still having heard nothing of what had been going on in southern Israel during the hours preceding this programme, Shah then went on to introduce a contributor who has appeared in the past in BBC World Service content.

Shah: “So what does this latest flare-up mean for people who live in Gaza? Najla Shawa is an aid worker and mother of two young children who lives to the west of Gaza City.”

Listeners then heard a one minute and eighteen second monologue:

Shawa: “Things are very worrying. We do hear explosions every now and then. I’m lucky that I’m distant from those areas so far. But we are completely unsure about how this will turn out in the coming hours. Our first concern as the parents, you know, we have two children – almost one and a half years old and four years old, two daughters – and whenever we are… when things are tense we try to avoid being near windows or open the window slightly so that it can absorb the shock. We are so used to it that we don’t immediately run or stay away. We just live our normal lives until something really big happens. Tonight there’s heavier and we are really concerned but this is really our life. Last night we haven’t slept. Nobody is sure that we will take our kids to school or not. It’s crazy to take them to school having all these bombings and airstrikes happening. So all [both] my daughter went to school early morning, I was like what kind of schizophrenic life we have. We’re all night worrying about the intensity of the situation and then everyone goes to work, to their normal life. Because we have experienced this so…like hundreds and hundreds of times like in the past years, this is unfortunately our way of living.”

Shah went on to amplify an inaccurate version of events provided by a terror organisation.

Shah: “Najla Shawa in Gaza City. The latest trigger for violence was Sunday’s undercover Israeli operation in the south of Gaza. Israel’s chief military spokesman said that Israeli Special Forces involved in the incident had not been sent to assassinate Hamas commanders but to conduct an intelligence gathering operation. Hamas said the Israeli undercover team had infiltrated Gaza near Khan Younis in a civilian car to target the commander who was killed.”

Listeners next heard directly from the Hamas horse’s mouth as Shah introduced another monologue from Ghazi Hamad.

Shah: “Its spokesperson Ghazi Hamad told the BBC that although Palestinians were ready to die for their freedom, Israel had gone too far this time.”

Hamad: “I think what happened this time [is] that Israel broken the understandings of the ceasefire and I think they put a big knife in the back of the ceasefire and this is prove that Israel is not interested in the stability and prosperity of Gaza and it try every time to break any agreement or understanding.”

Listeners were not told at this point or anywhere else in the programme that following the incident near Khan Younis on November 11th, Gaza Strip terrorists launched seventeen missile attacks against civilians in Israel.  

Shah went on to quote a Tweet.

Shah: “Well the UN envoy for the Middle East peace process, Nikolay Mladinov, Tweeted a short while ago saying the escalation in the past 24 hours is extremely dangerous and reckless. Rockets must stop, restraint must be shown by all. No effort must be spared to reverse the spiral of violence. Well Avi Issacharoff [wrongly pronounced] is Middle East analyst for the Times of Israel and one of the creators of the Israeli political thriller Fauda. Does he think a further escalation of violence is inevitable?”

Listeners then heard a discussion of the background to events with Avi Issacharoff beginning by stating “I do believe that we are into an escalation already.”

Shah: “But it comes – the timing is [unintelligible] – it comes as Benjamin Netanyahu has been saying very publicly that he wants to avoid war and many people believe that there are long-term efforts to try and maintain a truce, if not establish a better peace.”

Issacharoff pointed out that “Hamas is calling for the elimination of the State of Israel” and went on to mention a story about which BBC audiences have to date heard nothing.

Issacharoff: “Israel not only allowed more gas…into Gaza but also allowed Qatari money that will pass into Hamas’ hands to pay the salaries of Hamas’ people” 

After Issacharoff had mentioned the Khan Younis incident as a factor behind the latest escalation, Shah brought up her own speculations.

Shah: “But what do you conclude from all of that then? Is Israel in a sense trying to curb Hamas before there is some kind of deal? Is this a preemptive action? What would you read into it?”

Having explained that any ‘deal’ does not mean a peace agreement in which the sides “live happily ever after with each other”, Issacharoff explained that such an understanding actually means that “there’s going to be quiet while both sides will continue to prepare themselves for the next war to come.”

Shah appeared rather shocked by the idea of an inevitable war:

Shah: “But you talk about the next war to come.”

With Issacharoff having again explained that “this will happen at the end of the day…” and that any agreement between Israel and Hamas is “a temporary truce”, Shah closed the item.

As we see, throughout this entire seven-minute item and the news bulletin which came before it, BBC Radio 4 audiences heard nothing whatsoever about what was happening to the residents of southern Israel at that very time. A more one-sided portrayal of the story is difficult to imagine.

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BBC’s ME editor continues his ‘Bedouin village’ narrative – part two

As documented in part one of this post, on September 17th viewers of two BBC television channels saw a narrative-driven report blighted by important omissions on the subject of the Bedouin encampment called Khan al Ahmar produced by the corporation’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

On the same day listeners to two different BBC radio stations heard an audio version of Bowen’s report and the following day it was heard yet again by listeners to BBC World Service radio. The almost identical introductions to the report gave clear signposting to BBC audiences in all three cases. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

1) BBC World Service, ‘Newshour‘, September 17th, presented by Tim Franks, from 45:05 here.

Franks: “A tiny Palestinian village made of tents, shacks and with a school built from old tyres and mud faces demolition by Israel. Ten years of legal battles have ended with the Supreme Court authorising the destruction of the village called Khan al Ahmar. Supporters of Israel’s settlement of the occupied territories applaud what they say is Israel’s right to build on its own land. They’re delighted also by the backing that they’ve had from President Trump. Most of the world though regards Israel’s presence in the West Bank as an occupation and that the Jewish settlements are illegal under international law. The consequent fear is that the destruction of Khan al Ahmar will open the way to more building for Israeli settlers which will in turn split the West Bank and make the two-state solution – an independent Palestine alongside Israel – impossible. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports from Khan al Ahmar.”

2) BBC Radio 4, ‘The World Tonight’, September 17th, presented by Ritula Shah, from 17:35 here.

Shah: “A tiny Palestinian village made of tents, shacks and with a school built from old tyres and mud faces demolition by Israel. Ten years of legal battles have ended with the Supreme Court there authorising the destruction of the village called Khan al Ahmar. Supporters of Israel’s settlement of the occupied territories applaud what they say is Israel’s right to build on its own land. They’re delighted too by the backing they’ve had from President Trump. But most of the world believes Israel is an occupier in the West Bank and that the Jewish settlements there are illegal. They fear the destruction of Khan al Ahmar will open the way to more building for Jews that will split the West Bank and make the two-state solution – an independent Palestine alongside Israel – absolutely and definitively impossible. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports from Khan al Ahmar.”

3) BBC World Service, ‘World Update’, September 18th, presented by Dan Damon, from 05:10 here.

Damon: “A tiny Palestinian village made of tents, shacks and with a school built from old tyres and mud faces demolition by Israel. Ten years of legal battles have ended with the Supreme Court authorising the destruction of Khan al Ahmar. It’s a village which supporters of Israel’s settlement of the occupied territories say is in the way. They applaud what they say is Israel’s right to build on its own land and they’re delighted that the backing has come from President Trump. Most of the world believes Israel’s an occupier in the West Bank and that Jewish settlements are illegal. They fear the destruction of Khan al Ahmar will open the way to more building for Jews that will split the West Bank and make the two-state solution – an independent Palestine alongside Israel – absolutely and definitively impossible. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports from Khan al Ahmar.”

As we see, all three of those introductions gave a context-free presentation of ‘occupation’ – with no explanation that Khan al Ahmar is located in Area C and hence under the terms of the Oslo Accords is under Israeli control pending final status negotiations – and a partial representation of ‘international law’. Significantly, all three also promoted the contiguity myth seen amplified in an earlier report by Bowen – despite the fact that any potential building in the area in which Khan al Ahmar is located would in no way render the two-state solution “absolutely and definitively impossible” as claimed by the BBC.

In other words, even before Bowen began his report, a politicised and partisan narrative was in evidence.

The first part of Bowen’s report had been recorded on September 14th.

Bowen: “A small group of demonstrators has surrounded an Israeli army bulldozer at the entrance to the village of Khan al Ahmar. Not very many of them but this is a symbolic and important issue for the Israelis and for the Palestinians. Khan al Ahmar is a small – very small – Bedouin village on the main road down from Jerusalem to Jericho and the Dead Sea. It’s just a settlement of tents and shacks but like so many of these small disputes about land and territory, it’s attracted a lot of international attention.”

Obviously one reason for that “international attention” is the fact that political NGOs and foreign media have – like Bowen himself – made the story a cause célèbre. Bowen then went on to give an account of events at Khan al Ahmar which – as was the case in his filmed report – contradicts accounts of other journalists at the scene.

Bowen: “What they seem to be doing is blocking alternative routes into the village so there’s only one left open and that means that when they come to demolish this place, they will be able to control everybody who goes in and everybody who goes out much more easily.”

In contrast, AP reported that the bulldozers were clearing rock barriers that had been “set up to slow demolition” by local and foreign activists. Bowen went on to pass his unprofessional judgement on the proceedings.

Bowen: “Somebody’s laying down in front of it. There’s a bit of a scuffle going on. A few demonstrators trying to stop the bulldozer and the paramilitary police try and push the demonstrators back. It’s very symbolic. Really there’s no particular need for them to do it at this particular moment – move the bulldozer – and also the demonstrators know they can’t really stop the military. But both sides play their part in what goes on here.”

Listeners then heard a conversation between Bowen and an unidentified man.

Man: “I can’t speak now ‘cos I am breathing. I am tired now.”

Bowen: “Yes but tell me how…”

Man: “To open the way.”

Bowen: “You want to open the way?”

Man: “Yes. Only I can speak that they are criminals. They are the thieves of our souls and spirits.”

Bowen: “They’re gonna come back though you know if you open this; they’ll bring the bulldozer back.”

Man: “If they come back we are all ready to this. Our land mean our blood. Our land mean our blood.”

Bowen of course did not bother to clarify to BBC audiences that the man’s use of the word “our” is inaccurate because the Jahalin tribe does not own the land on which the Khan al Ahmar encampment was set up. Failing to inform listeners of the relocation package offered to the residents – including free building plots – and the Palestinian Authority’s use of the Bedouin as political pawns, Bowen went on to claim that they had “settled there in the 1950s” despite there being photographic evidence to contradict that claim.

Bowen: “The people of Khan al Ahmar have refused to move to another site. They settled there in the 1950s after they were expelled from the new Israel. Britain, France and Germany among others have warned that demolishing the village will make it even harder to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The UN’s warned that Israel would be committing a grave breach of international humanitarian law, which is a war crime.”

Following that repeat amplification of the contiguity myth and the notion that the relocation of squatters from an illegally constructed encampment on land to which they have no claim is a “war crime”, listeners heard the sound of singing.

Bowen: “As they talk the conflict grinds on. Hundreds of Jews at the funeral of an Israeli-American stabbed to death by a 17 year-old Palestinian boy and more Palestinians killed on Gaza’s border with Israel. Naftali Bennett is Israel’s minister of education and the leader of the nationalist right. He doesn’t believe in the two-state solution.”

Bennett: “The Palestinians’ hope to wipe out Israel: as long as that hope endures terror will continue. When they give up on the hope to eliminate Israel and realise we’re here to stay, they’re here to stay, we’ll see terror less.”

Bowen: “President Trump has made a difference. What kind of difference?”

Bennett: “He has. President Trump has brought fresh thinking to a region that’s been fairly stagnant in terms of its methodologies and ideas. What Trump is telling the Palestinians: if you think you’ll continue inciting against Jews and killing Jews and somehow time is on your side, you’re wrong. You’ve got to act. You’ve got to move. Let’s make peace. Don’t wait on the sidelines because time is not on your side.”

Listeners next heard recordings made by Bowen on September 13th.

Bowen: “President Trump believes pressure works and they’re feeling it here at the Augusta Victoria hospital in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. The president has cut the $25 million the US was paying Palestinian hospitals in this part of the city. I’m in the pediatric dialysis department – children’s cancer’s just down the corridor – and I’m with Walid Nammour the CEO here at Augusta Victoria.”

Nammour: “We could not believe that sick children – children with cancer – will be used by any civil state, by an American government as an element for negotiations that were putting pressures to achieve political results or gains. It’s incredible.”

Bowen: “Well the Americans say it’s Palestinians’ fault for not taking part properly in talks and also for taking cases to the International Criminal Court.”

Nammour: “This is politics. Why would a child who has cancer pay the price? Our life has become terrible of catastrophic level since the Trump administration took over. I don’t know what heart he has this man to stop medications from this child. This is an administration that is seeking peace treaty?”

As in his filmed report, neither Bowen nor his interviewee bothered to inform BBC audiences that by September 9th – the day after the US announcement and at least four days before this interview was held – the Palestinian Authority had already announced that it would make up the deficit.

Neither did Bowen raise the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s financial priorities – including the payments to convicted terrorists – when he went to get more backing for his chosen narrative in Jericho.

Bowen: “At his office in hot and dusty Jericho the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat despairs about the impact of Donald Trump on Palestinians and Israelis.”

Erekat: “I think there is no longer a Palestinian moderate camp. There is no longer an Israeli peace camp. He succeeded in getting Palestinians and Israelis off the raft of the two-state solution. Now the kids in my neighbourhood are being taught by Trump’s policies that if you claim something, grab it. This is what he’s teaching and educating and telling in his Twitters every morning to every child in Palestine. If you’re man enough, if you’re woman enough, don’t be silly [and] wait for courts or solving problems by peaceful means or negotiations; grab it! And Trump is succeeding in making Palestinians despair and desperation will lead to desperate acts.”

With apparently nothing to say about Erekat’s barely veiled threats or the Palestinian education system which teaches glorification of terrorism and negates Israel, Bowen closed his report.

Bowen: “The row over Khan al Ahmar touches the big issues of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But it’s also about families who most likely will lose their homes, children who will lose their school and a community that might be dispersed. This conflict has caused great suffering across generations and it seems that more will soon be inflicted on the people of Khan al Ahmar.”

Once again Bowen deliberately refrained from informing listeners that if the residents of Khan al Ahmar had not been exploited by the Palestinian Authority for entirely political purposes they could, like other members of their tribe, have relocated to a site nearby offering free plots of land, utilities and a school, with no need whatsoever for the community to ‘suffer’. Those facts, however, do not help advance the political narrative to which Jeremy Bowen has self-conscripted and so in these three radio items – just as in his previous filmed and audio reports – they were erased from the one-sided and politicised picture he presented.

Related Articles:

BBC’s ME editor continues his ‘Bedouin village’ narrative – part one

BBC’s Bowen recycles the ‘contiguity’ myth on World Service radio

Omission and imbalance in BBC report on ‘Bedouin village’

THE LA TIMES, THE BEDOUIN OF KHAN AL AHMAR AND ‘THEIR LAND’  (CAMERA)

MEDIA EMBRACE E1 FALSEHOODS  (CAMERA)

 

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part two

In part one of this post we looked at how the story of the UK Labour Party leader’s participation in an event in Tunisia in 2014 that had been the subject of a report in a British newspaper three days earlier was presented to the BBC’s domestic audience on BBC Radio 4 on the evening of August 13th.

Later the same evening the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ also aired a long item on the same story:

“Jeremy Corbyn attacked by Benjamin Netanyahu — over laying a wreath in memory of Palestinians suspected of 1972 Munich massacre.”

In her introduction to the item (from 16:28 here) presenter Ritula Shah managed to twist a story that first emerged in 2017 and was again taken up by a British newspaper in recent days into an ‘accusation’ from the Israeli prime minister. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Shah: “The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized Jeremy Corbyn and accused him of laying a wreath on the grave of one of those behind the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972 in which 11 Israeli athletes died. A photo of Mr Corbyn holding a wreath at the Palestinian Martyrs’ Cemetery in Tunisia in 2014 was published by the Daily Mail. The events of 1972 shocked the world. Here’s a flavour of how the BBC reported the event at the time.”

After listeners had heard an archive recording, Shah went on to read out Corbyn’s Tweet:

Shah: “Well tonight the Labour leader’s responded to the Israeli prime minister’s statement in a Tweet saying ‘at Netanyahu’s claims about my actions and words are false. What deserves unequivocal condemnation is the killing of over 160 Palestinian protesters in Gaza by Israeli forces since March, including dozens of children’.”

Listeners were not provided with any context to Corbyn’s ‘whataboutery’: the fact that a significant proportion of those dubbed ‘protesters’ by Corbyn were linked to terror factions and killed during violent rioting and attacks was not clarified by Shah before she continued.

Shah: “In an interview earlier today Mr Corbyn was asked to respond to the wreath-laying claim.”

Listeners then heard a recording of part of that interview.

Recording Corbyn: “A wreath was indeed laid by some of those who attended the conference for those who were killed in Paris in 1992.

Interviewer: “Were you involved in that wreath laying?”

Corbyn: “I was present when it was laid. I don’t think I was actually involved in it. I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who’s died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it. You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence. The only way you pursue peace is a cycle of dialogue.”

Shah: And that reference to Paris in 1992 by Jeremy Corbyn refers to the assassination of Atef Bseiso who was a senior member of the PLO who was allegedly killed by the Israeli secret service in revenge for the Munich attack.”

JVL protest at the BBC, 7/8/18. Photo credit: @The Red Roar

Shah then introduced her sole interviewee – a member of a pro-Corbyn fringe group called ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ which – despite the fact since its formation last year, BBC audiences have seen its representatives interviewed and quoted in dozens of items of BBC content – just the previous week organised a demonstration outside the BBC’s main London building to protest “the BBC’s failure to report fairly and impartially about the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party”.

Shah; “Well joining me now is Glyn Secker, secretary of the pro-Corbyn group Jewish Voice for Labour. […] do you think that reference to Paris in 1992 is essentially an attempt to distract from Bseiso’s involvement in the 1972 Munich Olympics attack?”

Radio 4 listeners first heard the unsubstantiated claim that the Daily Mail had doctored the photographs.

Secker: “Yes, I mean the commemoration of the Munich…of the deaths in Munich…ahm…when it is reported by the Daily Mail it is quite devious because yes, they have a picture of Jeremy Corbyn holding a wreath and it’s in that cemetery but actually they’ve switched – and you can see from the analysis of the photographs – they’ve switched the graves around. There’s one picture of him standing at a different grave – not the one where they were laying the wreath – and I think that must have been the grave of the terrorist. Jeremy Corbyn is standing there with his hands in his pocket, obviously not being very respectful.”

Shah [interrupts]: But he says himself, but he says himself ‘I was present when it was laid’ so that suggests very clearly that he was there, the photographs appear to show he was there, he’s not denying he was there. What’s the difference between being present and laying a wreath? If you’re in a place, you’re present, there, you’re taking part.”

Next Secker conjured up a hypothetical situation to add to his photo doctoring conspiracy theory:

Secker: “Well he’s not…well he wasn’t…well if you’re with a group of people, you’re there as their guest and they then say please will you walk over to this side of the cemetery and you follow them and then you find that they’re laying a wreath and you can see the wreath on this grave in the photograph but as I say, Jeremy Corbyn is standing there with his hands in his pockets – not a mark of respect for that grave – so I think what’s happened is the photograph of him holding the wreath is actually cropped at the bottom so you can’t see the grave and they’ve taken the picture where he was laying a wreath to the…to all the victims and they’ve switched it and made it look like something other.”

Listeners then heard irrelevant linkage of the issue of the UK Labour Party leader honouring terrorists to the topic of antisemitism.

Secker: “Now as Jews we do not take instruction from the Daily Mail about antisemitism. They backed Mosley in the 1930s…”

Shah: “But – hang on a minute – are you accusing the Daily Mail of antisemitism?”

Secker: “Ah well, I’m accusing them certainly historically of antisemitism – yes. They backed Mosley. They published in 1938 an article saying the country was being flooded by Jews.”

Pointing out that the Daily Mail was not there to reply to Secker’s allegations, Shah tried to drag the conversation back onto topic.

Shah: “I’m quite confused by the answer that you just gave and I dare say other people are. But Jeremy Corbyn is not denying that he was present at this wreath laying, that he was in this cemetery in Tunis. What is the difference between that and actually…he may not physically have literally laid the wreath but he was there.”

Yet again listeners had to listen to Secker’s hypothetical speculations.

Secker: “But if he’s been asked to walk over by his guests [sic] to the other side of the…of the cemetery – which looks very clearly as if that’s what happened – and he goes and stands with them at the grave of this terrorist and he stands there with his hands in his pockets – not marking respect at all to that person – that speaks volumes for what he was thinking.”

Shah: “Why does it matter so much that he had his hands in his pocket? He was there.”

Secker: “Well I tell you, if he was visiting my father’s grave and he stood there with his hands in the pockets I would be very offended.”

Shah: “So you think there is a difference between being present with your hand in your pocket but not actually involved?”

Secker: “Yes, he’s not got a wreath. He wasn’t laying a wreath at that grave. He was laying a wreath at the other grave.”

Shah: “Do you think those distinctions are so nuanced as to be almost irrelevant?”

Secker: “No they’re not irrelevant because the way the Daily Mail presents it is that he’s laying a wreath to a terrorist and he wasn’t and he said he wasn’t. That’s a big story and he’s denying it and I think that’s correct.”

After those four minutes of discussion concerning Jeremy Corbyn’s pockets, Ritula Shah then gave Secker the cue to irrelevantly opine on Israel. It would of course at that point have been appropriate for her to clarify to listeners that the speaker they were hearing is not just a member of a “pro-Corbyn group” but also an anti-Israel campaigner who captained an attempt to breach the naval blockade which prevents Hamas smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip and was briefly suspended by the Labour Party in March due to his membership in a secret Facebook group where antisemitic and anti-Israel content is rife.

Shah: “Benjamin Netanyahu says that this deserves unequivocal condemnation from everyone. Why does Mr Corbyn then say that’s false?”

Secker: “Well because he didn’t do it and therefore there was nothing for him to be condemned for. I would condemn Netanyahu for welcoming eh…the…ah…Orban the president [sic] of Hungary to his…to his country. He’s the leader of an extreme right-wing organization. I would condemn Netanyahu for making a deal with the Polish prime minister that the Poles are no longer responsible for the Holocaust. We lost family in the Holocaust.”

Shah: “Do you understand why this is so difficult for Jeremy Corbyn? It’s simply another, another allegation in a situation where he’s constantly being accused of antisemitism…”

Secker: “Yes.”

Shah: “…of acts which can be interpreted as antisemitic.”

Secker: “Yes, it’s horrific for him. I’ve spoken on the same platform as Jeremy. I know him personally. There’s not an anti-Semitic or racist bone in his body. He’s a…he’s very strongly anti-racist. And this has been whipped up as a way of silencing criticism of Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinians and is being used to bring him down politically.”

With that dose of the Livingstone Formulation Ritula Shah ended the item.

However, that was not the last that Radio 4 listeners heard from Glyn Secker: his Livingstone Formulation promotion was also featured two hours later in a report by Tom Barton aired in the station’s ‘Midnight News’ bulletin (from 00:54 here):

Barton: “Saying that he didn’t think he was involved hasn’t satisfied Mr Corbyn’s critics. The Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger said that being present was the same as being involved. But the labour leader’s supporters say he’s being treated unfairly. Glyn Secker, the secretary of the pro-Corbyn group ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’.

Secker: “Yes, it’s horrific for him. I’ve spoken on the same platform as Jeremy. I know him personally. There’s not an anti-Semitic or racist bone in his body. He’s a…he’s very strongly anti-racist. And this has been whipped up as a way of silencing criticism of Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinians and is being used to bring him down politically.”

Barton: “As the Labour leadership tries to bring the wider row over antisemitism under control, the intervention of the Israeli prime minister isn’t going to make that task any easier.”

As we see, on a day when the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition – and a potential prime minister – had admitted to having taken part in a ceremony honouring terrorists while participating in a conference together with members of additional terrorist organisations, the best the BBC could do for its British audiences was to present them with nearly seven minutes of discussion about Jeremy Corbyn’s pockets, conspiracy theories about doctored photos and irrelevant anti-Israel smears from an inadequately introduced anti-Israel activist.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part one

Over a third of BBC website’s Corbyn wreath laying report allocated to denials

BBC News gives free rein to anti-Israel campaigner’s falsehoods

 

 

BBC portrayal of US decision to leave UNHRC – part two

In part one of this post we saw how the BBC News website’s portrayal of the June 19th US announcement that it would leave the UN Human Rights Council failed to clarify to audiences that the decision – which had been on the cards for a year – came about because the UNHRC did not carry out what the US considers to be “essential reforms”.

The same story was the topic of an item aired in the June 19th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’. Presenter Ritula Shah introduced it (from 22:35 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Shah: “Well a body that might have been charged with examining Italy’s plans for the Roma is the United Nations Human Rights Council and in the last few minutes the United States has announced that it’s pulling out of that organisation. The US ambassador to the UN is Nikki Haley.”

Listeners then heard a recording of part of the statement made by the US Ambassador at the press conference at which the US decision was announced.

Haley: “…the United States is officially withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council. In doing so, I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from human rights commitments; on the contrary, we take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.”

Shah: “The mission of the UNHRC is to promote and protect human rights around the world. But when it was founded in 2006 the Bush administration declined to join, complaining that it included repressive states. The US has also repeatedly accused the body of being anti-Israel. Washington relented under President Obama and the US has been among the 47 countries elected to the council three times with the last 3-year term beginning in 2016.”

Remarkably the person chosen by ‘The World Tonight’ to comment on that story was the head of a political NGO with a long-standing anti-Israel bias who himself is infamous for having something of an obsession – particularly visible on Twitter – with that country. ‘Human Rights Watch’ had put out a press release concerning the US decision prior to this programme going on air and some of its themes were recycled in the Radio 4 item.

Shah: “Well Kenneth Roth is the executive director of the international human rights organisation ‘Human Rights Watch’ and he joins me now. [….] Kenneth Roth; Nikki Haley says the US hasn’t retreated from its human rights commitments. What difference then will its departure make – from the council – make?”

Roth: “Well I mean I wish it were true that the US hadn’t retreated from its commitments. I don’t see a lot of effort to stop, you know, Syrian slaughter of civilians, to stop the Saudis from indiscriminately bombing and starving civilians in Yemen, to defend the Rohingya who were ethnically cleansed from Myanmar. So you know I would quarrel with her there but in terms of the UN Human Rights Council, you know the US seems to be making two points. One is that some abusive states sit on the council – which is true. And that’s really the fault of different regions of the world who nominate them and then don’t give the UN General Assembly members the choice. They basically say ‘here are the same number of candidates as openings: take ’em or leave ’em’. And you have no choice but to take them.”

Shah: “So among the current members: the DRC, Egypt, China – all of which could be criticized for their human rights record.”

Roth’s agenda then became apparent:

Roth: “Absolutely. But even given that, the Human Rights Council has done a lot of good. It has actually done very serious investigations and condemnations in places like Syria, Yemen, North Korea, Myanmar. The problem is, it also criticises Israel and what this is really about…”

Shah [interrupts]: “But it’s a bit more than just criticising Israel, isn’t it? Israel is the only country that actually has a permanent space on its [the UNHRC] agenda – so-called Agenda 7 – which stipulates that alleged Israeli human rights abuses in the Palestinian conflict should be reviewed every council meeting.”

Roth: “That’s true and that’s something that the US has complained about a lot. But the truth is the US votes against resolutions criticising Israel even under other agenda items that apply to everybody. So it’s a bit hypocritical. Yes, they can complain about Agenda Item 7 but it never criticises Israel’s human rights abuses under this administration.”

Shah: “But it is strange that in that sense the US isn’t the only country that’s pointed this out. Even Ban Ki Moon the former UN Secretary General and the EU have pointed out that singling out Israel when there are human rights abuses all over the world is strange and slightly undermines the council’s credibility.”

Roth: “Well you know ‘Human Rights Watch’ has pointed this out as well but the real issue is, you know, does the Human Rights Council do more good than harm and it does enormous good in many places around the world.

Roth’s claim that HRW “has pointed this out” is apparently based on previous statements the NGO’s staff such as this one last year from its Geneva director, John Fisher, in which he effectively compared Israel’s human rights record to those of two repressive dictators infamous for murdering their own people:

“Fisher said Israel’s human rights record did warrant Council scrutiny, but the special focus was “a reasonable concern”.

“It is an anomaly that there is a dedicated agenda item in a way that there isn’t for North Korea or Syria or anything else,” he said.”

Roth went on to promote more of the messaging found in his NGO’s press release, even using the same words:

Roth: “But the Trump administration basically has a one-dimensional human rights policy. Ahm…it wants to defend Israel from criticisms above all else. So even given this…ahm…this fault in the council that it has this idiosyncratic stand-alone item for Israel, none the less most governments say we’re gonna work with the council; we can try to amend that Agenda Item but it does a lot of good. But the Trump administration’s in essence saying that we want to undermine the council because it criticises Israel…”

Shah: “Well it is interesting though….”

Roth: “…and the rest of the good work it does can be damned.”

Shah: “Item 7 was inserted after the organisation was formed. Perhaps if some sort of reform of the council to make it more balanced, to take into account the points that you’ve made at the beginning that it also includes countries that actually could be accused of human rights abuses, when actually its formation, its purpose is supposed to defend human rights and demand of its members the highest standards in defending human rights – those issues could have been tackled, couldn’t they?”

Shah failed to inform listeners that the US had been trying for a year to introduce exactly such reforms. Neither was it clarified to audiences that the “reform process” subsequently referred to by Roth is not the same one that the US was promoting or that his organisation – along with others – had actively opposed the US’s proposed reforms.

Roth: “Yes, there’s actually an active reform process underway at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. And the US government was participating in that process until now. Now it’s walking away. So ironically it’s less likely to get any reforms by turning its back on the council but that’s why I don’t think this move is really about reform. This move is about trying to discredit the council because the council criticises Israel and that one-dimensional policy is just fortunately not where the rest of the world is. The rest of the world recognises there’s a need to address serious problems elsewhere in the world as well.”

Ritula Shah closed the item there. Listeners were not informed – as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality require – of the “particular viewpoint” of Ken Roth and Human Rights Watch on Israel despite that being of obvious relevance since his messaging was given an almost unchallenged stage.

And so, listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard a person presented as the head of an authoritative sounding “international human rights organisation” telling them repeatedly that the US withdrawal from the UNHRC is actually “really about” Israel and – as was the case in his organisation’s press release – that because of Israel, human rights in the rest of the world will suffer.  

Related Articles:

BBC portrayal of US decision to leave UNHRC – part one

BBC News website amplifies the NGO echo-chamber

 

Error acknowledged, complaint upheld – yet BBC inaccuracy still remains online

Back in August we noted that the BBC had published acknowledgement of an inaccuracy that had appeared in a BBC Radio 4 programme in May 2017 on its ‘Corrections and Clarifications’ page.

When notification of that correction was received, BBC Watch had already submitted a Stage 2 complaint to the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit. The ECU has now informed us that the complaint was upheld.  

However, the programme concerned is still available online and it has not been edited to correct the presenter’s inaccurate claim (from 38:10) of “Jewish riots in the 1940s” in Manchester. Neither has any footnote been added to the webpage informing audiences that the ECU upheld a complaint concerning that statement.

BBC Watch has written to the ECU once again, pointing out that such an absurd situation does not inspire public confidence in BBC handling of editorial complaints.

Update: 

The BBC’s ECU has responded to BBC Watch’s communication:

“The programmes which remain available online stand as a record of what was broadcast, and the BBC doesn’t rewrite the record by editing them unless there’s some overriding reason to do so.  The usual action, where an error has been acknowledged, is to flag the fact on the relevant programme page and add a link to the published summary of the finding.  This has now been done in the case of the 23 May edition of The World Tonight.  I’m sorry it wasn’t done in time to forestall your email of 4 December.”

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ inverts history in Manchester

After nearly 3 months, BBC finally corrects Manchester inaccuracy