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.”

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

After nearly 3 months, BBC finally corrects Manchester inaccuracy

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After nearly 3 months, BBC finally corrects Manchester inaccuracy

Back in May an edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ was broadcast from Manchester following a terror attack in the city the previous day. As was noted here at the time, during a discussion about “tensions that have riven the city in the past”, listeners heard presenter Ritula Shah refer to “Jewish riots in the 1940s”.

Contrary to that claim, records show that in early August 1947, during a bank holiday, rioting against Jews took place over a number of days in Manchester, Salford and additional towns and cities.

BBC Watch submitted a complaint about that error, requesting that audiences be relieved of the inaccurate impression of a seventy year-old event in the history of their own country by means of an on-air clarification in the same programme. The response received was unsatisfactory.

“I understand you found presenter Ritula Shah made an inaccurate comments about Jewish riots in the 1940s in Manchester.

Firstly, I’m sorry about the delay in getting back to you. I know people appreciate a prompt response and unfortunately we’ve taken longer to reply than usual – please accept our apologies.

I appreciate your comments and this was a discussion about the tensions in cities across Britain that have occurred throughout recent history. Please be assured it is never our intention to mislead our listeners Ritula was trying to provide some context to this discussion and was discussing how different communities in Manchester have at one time been divided.”

A second complaint was submitted and in its reply, BBC Complaints acknowledged the error but declined to take any corrective action.

“It’s clear you remain unhappy with Ritula Shah’s reference to the riots in 1947. Ms Shah had intended to refer to anti-Jewish riots in reference to the events in Manchester and elsewhere that year. This was a live interview and we accept that she could have been clearer in making this reference.

However the general point was, that despite the earlier comments made by a contributor that Manchester is a ‘tolerant’ city, there is a history of tension towards ethnic minority communities.

We’ve noted your points but do not consider they have suggested a possible breach of the BBC’s standards to justify further investigation or a more detailed reply. Opinions can vary widely about the BBC’s output, but may not necessarily imply a breach of our standards or public service obligations.

For this reason we do not feel we can add more to our reply or answer further questions or points. We realise you may be disappointed but have explained why we are not able to take your complaint further.”

BBC Watch then submitted a Stage 2 complaint to the Executive Complaints Unit to which we have yet to receive a reply. However, eight days later the following communication was received from BBC Complaints:

“Thanks again for raising your concerns with us about ‘The World Tonight’ as broadcast on May 23.

As part of your complaint we referred the reference to the programme’s editor. As a result of this, we’ve now published a statement on the Corrections and Clarifications page below:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/helpandfeedback/corrections_clarifications

We hope this helps resolve the matter to your satisfaction. Should you have any remaining concerns, the ECU can consider these as part of any appeal you wish to pursue.”

The published statement reads as follows: 

While that statement is obviously welcome, the likelihood that the listeners who were misled by the original inaccurate claim almost three months ago will see it is of course minimal.

This should have been a very simple issue to resolve. A genuine error was made and listeners to ‘The World Tonight’ could and should have been informed of that fact shortly afterwards. Instead, it took nearly three months of repeated communication to extract a simple correction that most members of the BBC’s audience will not see.

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

BBC Radio 4 amplification of PA messaging on Israeli construction

As readers may recall, the BBC’s standard narrative on the topic of Israeli construction in Area C and the parts of Jerusalem that were under Jordanian occupation between 1948 and 1967 was contradicted by its own reporting in March of this year when it had to tell audiences that “Israel has approved the establishment of its first new Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank in two decades”.

Another stage in that particular building plan was reached on June 20th when work began on preparations for the laying of infrastructure at the site. Curiously, the production team at the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ decided that event justified a report over eight minutes long and the resulting item is particularly notable on several counts.

1) Although the item concerns Israeli construction, it did not include any response from Israeli officials: the two Israeli politicians heard in the report were not speaking to the BBC.

2) The item did however present the Palestinian Authority’s reaction to the story and ostensibly neutral back-up was brought in to reinforce the PA’s messaging.

3) Presenter Ritula Shah repeatedly referred to an ‘announcement’ concerning the building of a new ‘settlement’ without clarifying to listeners that it is the same project that they already heard about in February and March of this year.

4) Listeners heard an inaccurate and partial representation of ‘international law’ concerning Israeli communities in disputed areas.

The item (from 23:45 here) was introduced by Ritula Shah as follows:

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

Shah: “When Donald Trump met the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in February he had this to say about settlements and the crucial question of whether any peace deal should work towards separate Israeli and Palestinian states or just a single state.”

Listeners then heard an edited recording dating from February 2017:

Recording Trump: “As far as settlements; I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. I would like to see a deal being made. I think a deal will be made. [edit] That’s a possibility. So let’s see what we do. [edit] So I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two.” 

Shah continued:

Shah: “Well this morning Mr Netanyahu tweeted a picture of a bulldozer and a digger breaking ground on a rocky hill. His message read ‘after dozens [actually ‘tens’ – Ed.] of years I have the privilege to be the prime minister building a new settlement in Judea and Samaria’ – that’s the Hebrew term for the West Bank. Known as Amichai, this will be the first new Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank for more than twenty years.”

That statement is of course accurate but that fact was soon forgotten as the item progressed. Shah then gave the BBC’s usual partial mantra on ‘international law’ which fails to inform audiences of the existence of alternative legal opinions. She continued with an ‘explanation’ of that ‘international law’ which is patently inaccurate: those who do claim that ‘settlements are illegal’ do so citing Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention – not because of any Palestinian claims to the disputed land.  

Shah: “Settlements are illegal under international law – although Israel disputes this – as they’re built on land the Palestinians claim for a future state. Amichai will accommodate some 40 families whose homes were cleared from the unauthorised settler post of Amona and its creation has been welcomed by the settler movement. Motti Yogev is a member of the Knesset for the far-right Jewish home party.”

A translated voice-over of a recording of MK Yogev speaking was then heard.

Recording Yogev voice-over: “Here the settlement of Amichai will be built and established for those evicted from Amona and will strengthen our hold in the very heart of the land of Israel.”

For reasons best known to the programme’s production team, Shah then went on to mention a completely unrelated meeting held by the Israeli prime minister on June 20th:

Shah: “Well somewhat incongruously Mr Netanyahu met a delegation of former American football players today. And although he chose not to speak about the settlement decision, he did draw some parallels between their game and leading Israel.”

Recording Netanyahu: “If you’re not strong you’ll never get peace and if you’re not strong you’ll be in war, in turmoil and the worst thing is you lose. So I’m sure when you prepare for your games you don’t say ‘well, do I need to be strong, fast, nimble’. Is that a question? No; your game is not different from ours. The only difference is, if we lose the consequences are immutable. And we’ve had enough of that in our history so we won’t let that happen again.”

Listeners next heard Palestinian Authority messaging on the topic of Netanyahu’s Tweet, with Shah neglecting to inform listeners that the PA spokesman concerned had been appointed to the Fatah Central Committee the previous day.

Shah: “Well today’s announcement comes as President Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner is due in Israel tomorrow to take part in talks on restarting the peace process. Nabil Abu Rudeinah is a spokesman for the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. He called today’s move a grave escalation and questioned the timing.”

Recording Abu Rudeinah: “The resumption of these activities is a clear message to the American administration and to the efforts of President Trump. The American envoy is already in the area. Tomorrow President Abbas will be receiving him. This is an obstacle to the efforts of President Trump to resume the peace process.”

Shah then brought in her ostensibly ‘neutral’ back up – clearly intended to reinforce that PA messaging. She did not, however, bother to inform the audience that her interviewee was previously Algeria’s foreign minister and an Arab League envoy.  As Shah told listeners, on the same day as this report was broadcast Lakhdar Brahimi was at the UNSC. At that meeting, Brahimi quoted a woman from Gaza whom he said told him that “Israel has put us in a concentration camp” but of course Radio 4 listeners were not told of the use of that inaccurate and offensive terminology before they heard from the ‘neutral’ commentator.

Shah: “Lakhdar Brahimi is a former senior diplomat. He’s now a member of the Elders – the independent group of global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela. He was speaking about the Israeli-Palestinian question at the UN Security Council in New York today. I asked him what today’s announcement of a new settlement might mean for securing peace.”

Brahimi promoted the old canard – frequently heard by BBC audiences – whereby ‘settlements’ are the main obstacle to peace.

Brahimi: “I don’t think it’s very good news for Palestine [sic], for Israel, for the people who want settlement of this problem. The biggest hurdle to peace is the settlement activity and the international community – the United Nations – have called again and again for it to stop. Successive American administrations have done the same; evidently without raising their voice really.”

Shah then supposedly ticked the impartiality box but failed to clarify to audiences that until the Obama administration demanded a construction freeze in 2009, negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians took place regardless of the rate of Israeli building, that during the first nine months of a ten month freeze on construction in 2009/10, the Palestinians failed to come to the negotiating table or that when every last Israeli community was removed from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the ‘peace process’ did not progress.

Shah: “But Israel suggests that building settlements is not an impediment to peace and indeed the idea has an awful lot of support in some sections of the Israeli population.”

Brahimi: “Yeah it has a lot of support in the section of the Israeli population who think that all Palestine belong to them from the river to the sea and that the Palestinians had better go somewhere else. This is clearly not the view of the international community. I think there is near unanimity there. Even their best supporters who are the Americans think that yes, settlement activity is an impediment to peace.”

Shah did not at that juncture bother to remind her listeners – or her interviewee – that the League of Nations assigned what Brahimi described as “all Palestine” to the creation of a homeland for the Jewish people. She continued:

Shah: “Are you confident that the Americans’ position hasn’t changed? After all, today Jason Greenblatt – a Trump advisor on Israel – met Mr Netanyahu and Jared Kushner arrives in Israel tomorrow – a very senior Trump advisor. That doesn’t necessarily suggest an Israeli government that is worried about US reaction.”

Brahimi: “They probably are not because even with previous administrations, they have always managed to let, you know…maybe there is a little bit of anger or a statement here or there but at the end of the day the Americans let them do what they want. Lately Mr Trump has said very mildly that perhaps, you know, you should slow down settlement building it will be good, but not much more than that.”

Shah next gave Brahimi the cue for reinforcement of the previously heard PA messaging and further promotion of the notion that construction of homes for 40 families in Area C is intended to sabotage American diplomatic efforts.

Shah: “Well do you then support the Palestinian president’s spokesman when he suggested that today’s news – he called it a grave escalation and an effort…an attempt to foil efforts by the American administration to revive negotiations. Does it seem like that to you? Is it deliberate?”

Brahimi: “I’m sure it is deliberate. I’m sure that…”

Shah [interrupts]: “Because of the timing.”

Brahimi: “Yeah. You know it’s not the first time that they do that. You remember when the vice-president with Mr Obama…on the day of his visit they announced the building of 3,000 – or I don’t know how many – settlement units. I think it must be a message to the Americans that you speak about peace but then the peace is what we think it is – not what you or anybody else say it is.”

Shah refrained from clarifying to listeners that the 2010 announcement to which Brahimi referred related to construction of 1,600 housing units in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ramat Shlomo that had already been in the pipeline for three years when VP Biden arrived in Israel or that the construction freeze which was in effect at the time did not include Jerusalem. Neither did she bother to tell listeners that the same Nabi Abu Rudeinah said at the time that the project was “a dangerous decision that will torpedo the negotiations and sentence the American efforts to complete failure” even as the PA continued to refuse to come to the negotiating table despite the settlement freeze. Shah continued with more impartiality box ticking:

Shah: “But if there is to be international pressure on the Israelis, surely there also has to be international pressure brought to bear on the Palestinians, on Hamas to recognise the State of Israel, to renounce violence and so on.”

Brahimi: “Yes absolutely. There is a minority amongst the Palestinians, including within Hamas, who, you know, saying that, you know, all Palestine is ours and that we don’t want to recognise Israel. Or some others who say we don’t want to recognise Israel until they recognise us. On the Israeli side there is a minority just as extremist as that.”

Failing to challenge that equivalence between Israelis and a terrorist organisation and refraining from reminding her listeners that “minority” Hamas – with its platform of destruction of Israel – won Palestinian elections the last time they were held, Shah closed the item.

Shah: “So just finally then, judging by what you’ve been saying, do you have any hope that there could be progress in the peace talks in the near future?”

Brahimi: “I think it would not be realistic to say that today, tomorrow and after tomorrow we are going to move towards the kind of peace that, once again, the international community wants, that a lot of Israelis want and of course the overwhelming majority of the Palestinians. I don’t think it would be realistic to say that we’re going that way anytime soon.”

Shah: “The diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi.”

While this entire item was ostensibly built around one Tweet from the Israeli prime minister it is of course blatantly obvious that was merely a hook upon which to hang yet another chapter in the BBC’s long-standing politically motivated portrayal of Israeli construction as the prime factor preventing resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Related Articles:

Examining the BBC’s claim that Israeli building endangers the two state solution

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part one

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part two

BBC contradicts years of its own narrative on Israeli construction

How the BBC invents ‘new settlements’ with lax language

Quantifying BBC ‘due impartiality’ on ‘international law’

 

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

h/t MS

Almost 24 hours after the horrific terror attack in Manchester, on May 23rd  the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ was broadcast from Albert Square in that city.

The programme included a discussion (from 34:15 here) between presenter Ritula Shah and local interviewees. After one interviewee had described Manchester as a “resilient city”, Shah turned to historian Michala Hulme of MMU (from 38:10). [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Shah: “Michala Hulme: resilient – but every city has its tensions. I imagine that Manchester is no exception.”

Hulme: “Yes; I think if we go back historically there have been tensions within Manchester. However, I don’t want to reiterate what everybody’s already said but Manchester, you know, is a tolerant city. We’re a multi-cultural city…”

Shah [interrupts]: “But, but just remind us of the kind of tensions that have riven the city in the past. I think we’ve seen Jewish riots in the 1940s. There’ve been all sorts of incidents where communities in Manchester – I mean Manchester is no exception – but have pitted one against the other.”

Hulme: “I think in most major big cities if we go back through history, you know, if we go back to the Victorian times for example you have got a lot of different cultures coming together and, you know, and they have to work together and they have to get along and they’ve got different beliefs. And so I think yeah; there has been tensions in the past but we’ve moved on. That was 250 years ago, you know, 200 years ago. So we have moved on since then but, you know, something needs to be done. People are angry.”

If Hulme the historian seems to be somewhat at a loss regarding Shah’s specific claim of “Jewish riots in the 1940s”, that should not come as much of a surprise. We too have been unable to find any record of rioting by Jews in Manchester during that decade.

Records do however show that in early August 1947, during a bank holiday, rioting against Jews took place over a number of days in Manchester, Salford and additional towns and cities. In an article published by the New Statesman, Daniel Trilling described the events:

“On Sunday afternoon the trouble reached Manchester. Small groups of men began breaking the windows of shops in Cheetham Hill, an area just north of the city centre which had been home to a Jewish community since the early 19th century. The pubs closed early that day because there was a shortage of beer, and by the evening the mob’s numbers had swelled to several hundred. Most were on foot but others drove through the area, throwing bricks from moving cars.

Soon the streets were covered in broken glass and stones and the crowd moved on to bigger targets, tearing down the canopy of the Great Synagogue on Cheetham Hill Road and surrounding a Jewish wedding party at the Assembly Hall. They shouted abuse at the terrified guests until one in the morning.

The next day, Lever said, “Cheetham Hill Road looked much as it had looked seven years before, when the German bombers had pounded the city for 12 hours. All premises belonging to Jews for the length of a mile down the street had gaping windows and the pavements were littered with glass.””

As we see, BBC Radio 4’s listeners have been given an inaccurate impression of a seventy year-old event in the history of their own country and a correction clearly needs to be made.

Resources:

‘The World Tonight’ on Twitter

BBC Radio 4 contact details

 

BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

When some mostly Fatah-linked Palestinians serving sentences in Israeli prisons began a hunger strike on April 17th, the BBC produced three reports on that story on consecutive days. As was noted here at the time:

“…in all three of the reports, readers find (not for the first time) amplification of the PLO’s narrative concerning Palestinian prisoners – as promoted, for example, in a PLO ‘media brief’ from June 2015. [emphasis added]

Report 1: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

Report 2: “Palestinians say the detainees are political prisoners, while Israel describes them as “terrorists”” (photo caption)

                  “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

Report 3: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis.”

The idea that people who have been convicted of perpetrating acts of terrorism are ‘political prisoners’ is rejected in Europe and we certainly do not see the BBC promoting the notion that people imprisoned in the UK for terror related offences may be defined in such terms.”

On May 2nd the BBC went one step further. Apparently not content with the above uncritical and unqualified amplification of the partisan narrative of the PLO, Jerusalem bureau correspondent Yolande Knell dispensed with the nicety “Palestinians regard”, electing to describe convicted terrorists as “political prisoners” in her (and hence the BBC’s) own words.

Knell’s audio report was broadcast to Radio 4 audiences in the programme ‘The World Tonight’ (from 39:09 here) and an almost identical version of the report was broadcast to BBC World Service audiences in the programme ‘Newshour’ (from 38:11 here).

After listeners heard the sound of chanting, Knell began her report as follows: [emphasis added]

Knell: “Chants of support for Palestinian political prisoners in Israel jails who’ve been refusing food for two weeks in a protest about conditions. As President Abbas prepares to meet President Trump, tensions are rising back home, leading to renewed clashes with Israeli soldiers. In Ramallah I meet Fadwa Barghouti. Her husband Marwan – a popular figure in the president’s Fatah faction – is serving five life sentences for murder in Israel and is leading the hunger strike. She says Palestinians care deeply for the prisoners.”

With Fadwa Barghouti speaking in Arabic in the background, Knell then told listeners:

Knell:”The whole Palestinian people’s been subjected to imprisonment, she tells me. Every Palestinian home knows what it means to have a prisoner, knows suffering and injured pride.”

Of course very many Israeli homes know suffering too: the suffering of having had a loved one murdered by Palestinian terrorists in attacks such as those directed by Fadwa Barghouti’s husband. In her typical style Yolande Knell, however, erased that terrorism and its victims from her pathos-rich yet obviously biased portrayal of terrorists on hunger strike (albeit in waning numbers – which Knell neglected to mention) as “political prisoners”. She continued:

Knell: “Earlier there was another rally in Gaza where Palestinians burnt posters of their president. Here the anger is driven by the damaging internal split between Fatah and its Islamist rival Hamas – which controls Gaza – as well as the moribund peace process.”

Knell provided no evidence to back her bizarre claim that the demonstrations in Gaza on May 2nd were motivated by “the moribund peace process”. She went on:

Knell: “At Birzeit University politics professor George Giacaman now sees Mr Abbas in a tricky position in Washington. He thinks he’ll come under pressure to return to peace talks with Israel without a deal to stop Jewish settlement growth on land the Palestinians want for their future state. That would be very hard to sell to the public.”

Making no effort to inform BBC audiences that the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – the Oslo Accords – do not place any limitations of construction in Israeli communities in Area C but do state that the final status of that area is to be determined in negotiations and its portrayal as “Palestinian land” therefore amplifies a partisan position, Knell allowed her interviewee to promote the myth of “new settlements”: a notion she and her editors know perfectly well is false. [emphasis added]

Giacaman: “The Palestinian side has insisted throughout the past years that before negotiation starts, there has to be a hold to the settlement process. You have to keep in mind that this occupation of Palestinian land spearheaded by the establishment of new settlements in the West Bank undermines any political process, including of course the two-state solution.”

Listeners then heard a recording from the press conference at the meeting between the Israeli prime minister and the US president earlier in the year.

Trump: “As far as settlements, I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We’ll work something out but I would like to see a deal be made. I think a deal will be made.”

Knell next recycled the ‘policy shift’ theme the BBC has been pushing since mid-February even though it was quickly refuted by US officials.

Knell: “President Trump speaking to Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February. Israel had announced plans for several thousand new settler homes during his first month in office with relatively little criticism. And the new US leader appeared ready to break with long-established American foreign policy backing the creation of a Palestinian state as the only way to end the Middle East conflict.”

Trump: “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two but, honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians…if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like best.”

Knell: “Palestinians don’t expect the meeting between Mr Abbas and Mr Trump to be so friendly. But the Palestinian president has tried to strengthen his hand by meeting the leaders of Washington’s close Arab allies Egypt and Jordan on his way to the White House. So could the US be about to broker another round of peace talks?”

Giacaman: “I doubt if anything would come of it. I don’t think President Abbas has anything new to offer and I doubt Mr Trump is in a position to give the Israeli-Palestinian issue all his concentrations. The exposure to American public opinion and to the American leadership; this will help a lot because they are the only people in the world who can influence the Palestinians, Israelis to go to peace.”

Knell closed her report:

Knell: “Recently Palestinians have seen their cause overshadowed by other regional concerns. Their leaders now hope that the unpredictable approach of Mr Trump could work in their favour. Their official line is that he offers a rare chance for peace.”

Knell’s portrayal of the chances of renewal of negotiations of course airbrushed very pertinent context such as the increasingly acrimonious rift between the PA and Hamas and the related fact that the long since unelected Mahmoud Abbas cannot even set foot in the Gaza Strip, let alone claim to represent all the Palestinians.  

However, Knell’s aim in this report was obviously not to provide domestic and foreign BBC audiences with a realistic, accurate and impartial report on the story but to promote PLO talking points – primarily the false claim that imprisoned terrorists are “political prisoners”.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part three: BBC Radio 4

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part two: World Service radio

BBC News promotes PLO narrative in copious coverage of prisoners’ strike

BBC fails to provide crucial background in reports on Fatah prisoners’ strike

Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”

Inaccuracies and omissions in BBC News reporting on Abbas White House visit

Resources:

How to complain to the BBC

 

 

 

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part three: BBC Radio 4

Part one of this post looked at BBC News website coverage of the launch of Hamas’ new policy document and part two reviewed reports concerning the same topic on BBC World Service radio – in which the document was repeatedly and inaccurately portrayed as a ‘new charter’.

The same story also received coverage on BBC Radio 4, including a lengthy item in the May 2nd edition of ‘The World Tonight’ (from 31:16 here). In contrast to her World Service colleagues, presenter Ritula Shah introduced the item to listeners without falling into the trap of describing the document as a ‘new charter’. [emphasis in italics in the original]

“The Palestinian militant group Hamas has said it’s willing to accept an interim Palestinian state without recognising Israel’s right to exist. The group’s published a new policy document; the first since its founding charter of 1988. The new document doesn’t mention Hamas’ parent organisation the Muslim Brotherhood – an Islamist movement banned in Egypt. The text is seen as an effort by Hamas, which rules Gaza, to soften its image. The group as a whole, or in some cases its military wing, is designated as a terrorist group by Israel, the US, the EU, the UK and some other powers. Launching the document in the Qatari capital Doha, the leader of Hamas Khaled Masha’al said the aim was to clarify the organisation’s ideology, politics and guidelines but Hamas maintained its view that Israel was established illegally and they wouldn’t recognise its right to exist.”

Listeners then heard a voice over translation of an excerpt from Masha’al’s speech.

v/o: “Hamas is developing without losing the core principles or waiving the established rights and demands of our people. Hamas also believes that our struggle against the Zionist occupation, the Zionist enterprise, is not a struggle against the Jews or the Jewish faith. Hamas is struggling against the Zionist occupiers, the aggressors.”

Shah continued, introducing her first interviewee.

“So just how significant is the move? Khaled Hroub is an expert on Hamas and professor of Middle Eastern studies at Northwestern University in Qatar.”

Unfortunately, the reasonable portrayal of the story that listeners had so far heard in this item was compromised when Hroub opened his commentary by making the inaccurate claim that Hamas has embraced the two-state solution and promoting the falsehood of ‘1967 borders’ – with no meaningful challenge from Ritula Shah forthcoming.

Hroub: “It’s indeed very significant to acknowledge and accept the idea of the two state solution; to have a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. Now we have this kind of in a document; official document.”

The Hamas document states very clearly that it views the establishment of a Palestinian state on territory in part already under Palestinian Authority control as an interim measure rather than a permanent solution to the conflict. It also clearly states its rejection of Israel’s right to exist and therefore obviously does not “accept” the two-state solution that promotes a Palestinian state existing peacefully alongside Israel, but rather Hamas obviously sees that as a stepping stone along the route to its aspiration to eradicate Israel.

After Hroub had also promoted the notion that the new document means that Hamas has changed from being “a religious movement with political, national dimensions” to “a national Palestinian movement with a religious and Islamist background” (despite the fact that the text includes the claim that “Palestine is an Arab Islamic land” and “Palestine is at the heart of the Arab and Islamic Ummah”), Ritula Shah interjected, but failed to relieve listeners of the inaccurate impression that Hamas now accepts the two-state solution.

Shah: “But crucially the document doesn’t officially recognise Israel or renounce violence. From the view of – the point of view – of Western diplomats, presumably that gives them little room for manoeuvre.”

Hroub’s answer to that question included the inaccurate claim that Palestinian recognition of Israel’s right to exist as the Jewish state is not a crucial part of the story, along with the falsehood that Israel does not accept the two-state solution and erasure of the fact that the Oslo Accords put the vast majority of Palestinians under PA rule.

Hroub: “Recognising Israel is not really the big issue. From Hamas’ perspective – and I am not defending them but let’s say from a wider Palestinian perspective – they say well, we have been collectively doing this and yet nothing in return we have achieved. The Israeli side did not get on the two-state solution. Nothing whatsoever concretely materialised on the ground so the internal, if you like, Palestinian political spectrum recognised Israel except Hamas. This lack of recognition on the side of Hamas is not the issue. We have so many bigger issues [unintelligible], you know, the process.”

Shah then asked:

“If we accept that Hamas has moved its position somewhat but perhaps not nearly as far as the Israelis would like, who do you think Hamas is aiming to appeal to by changing its stance in the way that it has?”

Hroub’s response once again misled listeners by erasing the Hamas document’s unequivocal references to “Arab Islamic land” and the “Islamic Ummah”.

Hroub: “Number one I think to the Palestinian constituency itself – the Palestinian people – because by saying well we are a national Palestinian liberationist [sic] movement, this means we are kind of cutting off any trans-national Islamist dimensions so we are a purely Palestinian movement.”

He continued:

Hroub: “Number two is maybe the wider regional and international audience to say well we speak politics, we speak diplomacy and now we are going maybe halfway through in fulfilling a number of conditions that have been imposed on Hamas – and even the Palestinians – by the Quartet Middle East committee saying well they have to do this and that. Now I think Hamas is saying now we are kind of going down that road but we cannot go the entire kind of road without having or without receiving in return substantial and concrete steps from the Israeli side and the American side.”

The Quartet’s three principles are renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel and adherence to existing agreements. Hamas is nowhere near “halfway” to fulfilling those conditions and – as this new document once again shows – clearly has no intention of doing so. In other words, Khaled Khroub was again allowed to mislead BBC audiences with inaccurate claims that went completely unchallenged.

The editorial decision to broadcast this interview with Khaled Hroub – which clearly not only contributed nothing to audience comprehension of this story but actually muddied any such understanding by promoting numerous false claims – is obviously highly questionable. The fact that the item then went on to broadcast an interview with Michael Herzog in which listeners heard ‘the Israeli view’ of the new Hamas document (together with a few home truths that BBC audiences rarely encounter) does not mitigate that editorial decision.

Shah: “Well Israel’s held Hamas responsible for all attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip and has carried out three major military campaigns in Gaza since 2008. The offensives were preceded by escalations in cross-border fighting with scores of rocket attacks from Gaza and airstrikes against Hamas by Israel. So what do Israelis make of the Hamas document? Michael Herzog is a retired brigadier general in the IDF. He’s participated in most of Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians, Syrians and Jordanians since 1993.”

Herzog: “Hamas feels isolated. It’s in economic bankruptcy. There is a huge rift between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas. There are strained relations with Egypt and I think they felt the need to do something in order to extricate themselves from this position of isolation but in terms of what’s in the document itself…”

Shah: “So what would you say that’s new? Just identify what’s new for us.”

Herzog: “What’s different is first they try to present themselves …to go away from antisemitism which characterised their 1988 charter by saying that they are not against Jews but they are against Zionism. However, they reject Israel as it is; they will never recognise it. Another modification is that in the original charter – which by the way was not abrogated; it’s still there – Hamas presents itself as a Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which it is. In this document this disappeared because they did not want to upset Egypt. Other than that there is willingness to accept a Palestinian state along the ’67 lines – which is not new, by the way; they’ve been saying it over the last few years – but on condition that Israel will withdraw to ’67 lines, accept all refugees – which means the annihilation of Israel – and they will not relinquish their demand for the whole of historical Palestine – including Israel – and they will never give up on what they call armed resistance which we refer to as terrorism.”

Shah, however, insisted on trying to put some positive spin on the story:

Shah: “So, plenty of shortcomings from your point of view but you recognise that there is a move – however incremental – and is that in itself to be welcomed?”

Herzog: “The move is very modest. It does not change the basic ideology of this organisation. It does not turn it into a willing participant in a peace process which espouses recognition between two states. I think it’s more of a tactical move. I of course think that any move in that direction is positive but let’s not delude ourselves about this organisation. At the very same time that they come out with this document they continue to encourage and direct and initiate terrorist activities in the West Bank and inside Israel. You just have to follow what’s happening every week here.”

Listeners to this programme would be unlikely to have the knowledge to enable them to understand Herzog’s words because BBC audiences are of course serially denied information concerning “what’s happening every week” in Israel. Since the beginning of this year, the BBC has not reported any of the missile attacks from the Gaza Strip to its English-speaking audiences and as of March 2017, had reported just 0.3% of the total number of terror attacks that took place.  

Shah continued:

Shah: “So in terms of the bigger picture then, in trying to restart some kind of meaningful peace process, as far as you’re concerned this makes no difference.”

Herzog: “It does not. The partner of the peace process is not Hamas; it is the Palestinian Authority which is rival to Hamas and feels that Hamas wants to undercut it. And I think the context for this document – as well as very harsh measures recently adopted by the Palestinian Authority against Hamas, including cutting of salaries and not paying for electricity and so on – is the upcoming meeting between President Abbas and President Trump in the White House tomorrow. I think that both parties feel Abbas would like to present himself as someone who is a willing partner, while Hamas would like to not be cut out of the picture.”

While the BBC has certainly not been alone in falling for this latest Hamas PR stunt, it is remarkable that the corporation’s various platforms have presented differing portrayals of the Hamas document. Particularly noteworthy is the BBC World Service’s repeated insistence on telling audiences that the document is a ‘new charter’ despite the fact that even Hamas itself says it is not. Given the plethora of inaccurate reporting, it will be important to track the BBC’s portrayal of this topic in the future.

Related Articles:

How will the BBC report Hamas’ upcoming botoxed manifesto?

Revisiting Jeremy Bowen’s facilitation of Hamas PR

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part one: website

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part two: World Service radio

 

Sourcing an anti-Israel libel promoted on BBC Radio 4

When anti-Israel campaigner Ken Loach appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ on February 25th, one of the more delusional allegations heard by listeners (and the competition was tough) was that during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, Israeli troops “executed” Hebrew speakers in the Gaza Strip.The World Tonight 25 2

“Will they go to Gaza and see the rubble? Will they see the schools that were bombed by Israel in 2014? Will they see the hospitals that were targeted by Israel? Will they see the places where families were herded together and then executed? Will they hear about the people who were asked if they spoke Hebrew and if they spoke Hebrew they were executed?”

Not only was that allegation – and the many others – not questioned or challenged by the BBC’s Ritula Shah but Loach was not even asked to provide a source for such a serious charge. Hence, we decided to look for its source ourselves and the search did not take very long.

The inventor of that defamation is a man who has made a career out of lying about IsraelMax Blumenthal – and in 2014 he touted it at the so-called ‘Russell Tribunal on Palestine’, with further amplification from Rania Khalek at ‘electronic Intifada’

“Blumenthal described in vivid detail the grisly executions he documented of civilians, paramedics and fighters carried out by invading Israeli soldiers. He also highlighted several instances of Israeli soldiers summarily executing older men in Gaza after learning they spoke Hebrew, leading to speculation that soldiers were ordered to eliminate anyone capable of understanding their commands.”

Another fan of Blumenthal’s unsubstantiated allegations is Asa Winstanley who told readers of the Hamas-linked MEMO website that:

“According to several different eyewitnesses he spoke to, offering corroborating accounts of different incidents, it seems that Israeli soldiers were executing a new practice during this latest Gaza war. As Max puts it: “wanton targeting of Palestinian civilians who spoke Hebrew”.”

The fact that Radio 4 apparently did not see anything problematic about broadcasting that and additional spurious allegations without question or challenge of course prompts the question of what it is that supposedly differentiates the BBC from Hamas-supporting websites which promote and amplify the same defamation – but without demanding a licence fee.

Related Articles:

BBC interviewee and source banned from German parliament

Move over Galloway: BBC Radio Ulster airs pro-Assad & anti-Israel propaganda

Racist Alliance: Behind the scenes of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine and Pluto Press (UK Media Watch) 

BBC Radio 4 provides a stage for anti-Israel activist’s agitprop and defamation

h/t @Sussex Friends

“If it is established during a live programme that a factual error has been made and we can accurately correct it then we should admit our mistake clearly and frankly. Saying what was wrong as well as putting it right can be an important element in making an effective correction. Where the inaccuracy is unfair, a timely correction may dissuade the aggrieved party from complaining. Any serious factual errors or potential defamation problems should be referred immediately to Programme Legal Advice.” (BBC editorial guidelines – Live Output – How To Deal With A Serious Incident In A Live Broadcast)

When BBC Radio 4 producers invited long-time anti-Israel activist Ken Loach to appear on the February 25th edition of ‘The World Tonight’ to talk about a campaign in which he is involved there can be little doubt that they knew in advance exactly what they were going to get. It was therefore to be expected that listeners to the item concerned (from 32:52 here) would hear the tirade of inaccurate statements, crude distortions and downright lies which included the following:The World Tonight 25 2

“Israel has been oppressing the Palestinians for 70 years. They steal their land. They destroy their houses. They kill them with impunity. They break international law. They disregard United Nations resolutions and they break the Geneva conventions. They’re constructing an apartheid state.”

“If you look in the West Bank, for example, you’ll see settlements that are only available to Israeli Jews. The Palestinians live in villages at the foot of those settlements. You’ll see roads that only Israelis can travel on. The Palestinians, in their own land, cannot travel on those roads. You’ll see checkpoints that only Palestinians are forced to go through. Israelis don’t have to go through checkpoints. […] it satisfies the United Nations definition of apartheid.”

“Will they go to Gaza and see the rubble? Will they see the schools that were bombed by Israel in 2014? Will they see the hospitals that were targeted by Israel? Will they see the places where families were herded together and then executed? Will they hear about the people who were asked if they spoke Hebrew and if they spoke Hebrew they were executed?”

And in addition to all that, listeners also heard promotion of the BDS campaign – once again without their being told what that campaign really seeks to bring about.

So what efforts were made by presenter Ritula Shah to counter the inaccurate and misleading information promoted by her interviewee? Her first interjection – as usual – failed to meet BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality.  

“You can object to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, to settlements that are defined as illegal under international law, but that’s not the same as an apartheid state. That’s a very serious and particular accusation to be levelling.”

No serious attempt was made by Shah to challenge the specific lies and inaccuracies promoted by Loach and she confined herself to generalized “there are those who would say” statements on Israeli Arab citizens, Israeli democracy and the lack of justification for boycotts. The second half of the item included an interview with a representative from the Israeli Government Tourist Office which was presumably intended to tick the impartiality box and will no doubt be cited in response to any complaints about this item.

Significantly though, no substantial effort was made to relieve Radio 4 audiences of the multiple inaccurate impressions they received from listening to Ken Loach’s vulgar agitprop and the real issue with this item is that despite its various nods to ‘impartiality’, the programme’s producers must have known in advance that the defamatory messaging in Loach’s three and a half minutes of unchallenged propaganda was exactly what listeners were going to take away from this item.