More to a BBC Radio 4 item on ‘morality’ of aid to Palestinians than meets the eye

The September 23rd edition of the BBC Radio 4 “ethical and religious” programme ‘Sunday‘ included an item (from 19:23 here) described in its synopsis as follows:

“And where politics and morality clash – Edward discusses the cut in funding for Palestinian projects by the US Administration with Nigel Varnell [sic] of Embrace the Middle East and Sarah Elliott from Republicans Overseas.”

The charity representative is actually called Nigel Varndell.  Listeners were not provided with any information concerning the “particular viewpoint” of the charity ‘Embrace the Middle East’ as required under BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality.

Right at the beginning of the programme presenter Edward Stourton told listeners:

Stourton: “Charities are trying to plug the gap left by the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw funding for Palestinian refugees. We’ll debate the morality of that decision with one of the charities involved and a Trump supporter.”

The long item itself was introduced by Stourton as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Stourton: “A group of charities have declared they’re trying to plug the funding gap left by the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw American support for the UN agency that looks after Palestinian refugees. Nigel Varndell is head of marketing and fundraising for the charity ‘Embrace the Middle East’ and Sarah Elliott chairs the London-based group ‘Republicans Overseas’. Nigel Varndell told me how his charity is trying to help.”

After Varndell had told listeners about his own charity’s £25,000 contribution to a “Catholic health development” project run in “some of the poorest areas of Gaza” by the Vatican-run NGO ‘Caritas‘, Stourton asked:

Stourton: “What do you think the overall impact of the Trump administration’s policy is going to be?”

Varndell: “Well if you look at the overall impact, we’re talking about $200 million potentially of US aid cuts. Also cuts into UNRWA – the United Nations agency – that could be hundreds of millions of dollars. We’re already hearing of cuts to hospitals in East Jerusalem that deal with Palestinians and also money for co-existence projects. Now if you begin to look at the impact of that purely in somewhere like Gaza, that might mean something like 500 to 600 schools closing. That could be 22 health centres in Gaza that might be forced to close. That might be cuts to employment for people who work for UNRWA – maybe another 10 to 12 thousand jobs in an area that already suffers from huge unemployment. It’s going to be very significant.”

Stourton then asked his second contributor:

Stourton: “Sarah Elliott; given what we’ve just heard how do you possibly justify this policy?”

Sarah Elliott mentioned the possibility of other donors stepping up before going on to bring up a topic usually avoided by the BBC – Palestinian Authority funding for terrorists and their families.

After Stourton stated that “the vast majority – all this money – goes to legitimate aid projects, doesn’t it?”, Elliott brought up the topic of UNRWA textbooks, to which Stourton retorted “can you give me evidence for that?”. Elliot’s subsequent mention of weapons discovered in UNRWA schools produced no reaction from Stourton, who went on to ask Varndell for his input.

Stourton: “Well I want to hear from Nigel Varndell now. Well what is your response to the suggestion that this money doesn’t always go to legitimate purposes and is – I suppose contaminated seems to be the accusation – by the political nature of the region?”

Varndell told Radio 4 listeners “that money’s not going astray” and that “we’re talking about education for children, health care for sick people”.

Notably, neither he nor Stourton brought up the fact that aid provided to what Varndell termed “development organisations” frees up the Palestinian Authority’s budget for rewarding terror and Hamas’ budget for expansion of its terror capabilities such as cross border tunnels.

After Sarah Elliott had spoken about transparency and American priorities, Stourton brought up the topic of ‘morality’.

Stourton: “Do you think it’s moral to take money back from various projects that have been…people have got used to, providing them with health, education and so forth?”

He went on to interrupt Elliott’s answer to that question:

Stourton: “Can I…can I just…ahm…point out to you one area where people are suspicious about this, which is the fact that a lot of the money that’s being withdrawn is going to the refugee agency and there is a view that actually this is political; this is about trying to remove the issue of Palestinian refugees and their right of return from the political process.”

Listeners heard nothing on the relevant topic of unique automatic hereditary status for Palestinian refugees or that the so-called ‘right of return’ actually means eradication of the Jewish state and scuppers any chance of a two-state solution to the conflict.

They did however hear Nigel Varndell opining that “it’s deeply immoral to try and use the poorest and the most vulnerable people in Gaza as pawns in a political game” before he went on to make a problematic claim.

Varndell: “This is an area – one of the few areas in the world where under-5 child mortality is not going down in spite of the millennium development goals and everyone’s commitment to those.”

Listeners were not told that Varndell’s claim concerning child mortality rates is sourced from UNRWA itself or that since 2015 UNRWA has been making spurious claims of a connection between child mortality and Israeli counter-terrorism measures which do not stand up to scrutiny. He continued:

Varndell: “What we’re talking about is punishing those people and I was in Gaza in May. I was talking to children, women who have no access to healthcare other than that provided by aid agencies. And to try and say to them that they need to be political pawns in this is completely immoral and I would say wrong.”

Stourton: “And that is what you’re doing, Sarah Elliott, isn’t it?”

Elliott: “No, no, no. It’s what their political leaders are doing. There’s no reason why that region should have 80% of their people on aid. And I think that their political leaders are keeping them down in order to push their own agenda.”

Rather than relating to the issue of why people who live under the rule of fellow Palestinians should be classified as refugees and why the Palestinian Authority and Hamas do not provide education and healthcare for those people, Stourton steered the focus back to the micro:

Stourton: “But the impact of what’s happening at the moment is indeed about people on the ground. […] Let me put this to you please: the people who Nigel Varndell has been talking about are the ones who are going to suffer as a result of this policy, aren’t they?”

Following Elliott’s response, Stourton gave the last word to Varndell who praised the “moral leadership” of British government departments in relation to a pledge of increased funding to UNRWA before closing with threatening speculation:

Varndell: “…it must be moral to keep funding these kind of aid development projects. We need to keep doing that or people like those I met in Gaza in May will lose their lives, their healthcare, their education and their hope. And arguably that will drive them into the hands of extremists and make this worse and more unstable for Israel, for Palestinians, for everyone.”

Given that the BBC’s coverage of the topic of the US decision to cut donations to UNRWA and other projects has been uniformly superficial, it would be easy to dismiss this item as more of the same.

Yet again BBC audiences were denied information concerning UNRWA’s problematic record and were given no insight into the background to its politically motivated perpetuation of the refugee issue. Yet again BBC audiences heard no discussion of why citizens of the Gaza Strip and PA controlled areas are classified as refugees and deliberately kept dependent on foreign aid.

However, in this item Radio 4 listeners heard more than an academic discussion. They heard a significant contribution from the “head of marketing and fundraising” at an NGO that is raising money for this particular cause – a cause that was repeatedly portrayed to the Sunday morning audience as the right “moral” choice.

Obviously it would therefore have been appropriate for Edward Stourton to have explained to BBC Radio 4 audiences listening to this item why a PR firm that describes ‘Embrace the Middle East’ as one of its clients claims to have been involved in the item’s production – and what that entailed.

Related Articles:

BBC R2 promotes and mainstreams anti-Israel Greenbelt Festival

HEAD OF BRITISH NON-PROFIT ENGAGES IN PROPAGANDA WAR AGAINST ISRAEL  (CAMERA)

 

 

Advertisements

BBC News website reports on terror attack one week later

As documented here previously, the BBC News website did not report the murder of an Israeli father of four by a Palestinian terrorist on September 16th.

BBC News website ignores fatal terror attack in Gush Etzion

One week later, on the afternoon of September 23rd, an article headlined “Ari Fuld killing: $1m raised for family by crowdfunders” was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Despite the fact that the story has nothing whatsoever to do with events taking place along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, the report was tagged “Gaza border clashes”.

As has been seen on numerous occasions in the past, the BBC ignored the history of the location of the attack on Ari Fuld, instead advancing its standard simplistic narrative of ‘settlements’ in ‘occupied’ territory.

“A crowdfunding campaign has raised more than $1m (£760,000; 850,000 euros) for the family of an American Israeli killed by a Palestinian a week ago.

It was set up after Ari Fuld was stabbed to death at a shopping centre in the Jewish settlement bloc of Etzion in the occupied West Bank.”

In line with the BBC’s chosen editorial policy concerning the language used when reporting on terror attacks against Israelis, the article refrained from describing Ari Fuld’s murder as an act of terror in the corporation’s own words. The sole reference to terrorism came in a quote:

“The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who attended Mr Fuld’s funeral, tweeted that “America grieves as one of its citizens was brutally murdered by a Palestinian terrorist”.”

Readers also found a recycled mantra based on PLO ‘media guidance’ which has been repeatedly promoted on the BBC News website over the past three years.

“Mr Fuld, 45, is the latest among dozens of Israelis to have been killed in stabbings, shootings and car-rammings, predominantly by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs since late 2015.

Some 300 Palestinians – most of them attackers, Israel says – have also been killed by Israeli security forces in that period, according to news agencies.

Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.” [emphasis added]

Throughout the three years “since late 2015” the BBC has refrained from producing any meaningful reporting on the topic of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials and so readers would be unable to judge for themselves whether or not what “Israel says” is accurate. 

Likewise, the BBC consistently avoids providing its audiences with serious coverage of the topic of Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists and their families meaning that while readers of this story were once again told that Palestinians commit lethal terror attacks due to “frustration”, they were not informed of the financial incentives which apply to this specific story and others.

“The [Palestinian Authority] Prisoner Affairs’ Commission spokesman, however, added that Jabarin’s family would be eligible for funds, once it completes the necessary documentation and assuming Jabarin is not released by Israel.

“We are not bashful or secretive about our support for our prisoners,” he said. “The [Jabarin] family would be eligible to receive a monthly salary of NIS 1,400 ($390), if their son is not freed by Israel and it completes all the necessary documents.”

“Families must provide the Prisoners’ Commission with court documents about their imprisoned family member, papers from the Red Cross proving their family member was imprisoned on security grounds for resisting the occupation, a copy of their family member’s identification card and other forms before they receive funds,” Abd Rabbo said. “It is more or less impossible to finish this process in less than three months.” 

Abd Rabbo also said that if Jabarin’s family were to be granted a salary and their son remains in prison for several years, the sum they receive would increase. Former PA Prisoners’ Affairs Minister Ashraf al-Ajrami confirmed the substance of Abd Rabbo’s comments.”

In contrast to that omission of obviously relevant information, the BBC did however find it necessary to provide readers of this article with the corporation’s standard yet partial narrative on ‘international law’.

“More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

There are also some 100 outposts – small settlements built without the government’s authorisation.”

In other words, in an article about funds raised to help the family of the victim of a terror attack, BBC audiences found more references to ‘settlements’, ‘occupation’ and ‘international law’ than they did mentions of the word terror.

Related Articles:

BBC News website ignores fatal terror attack in Gush Etzion

BBC News goes from not reporting car rammings as terror to not reporting at all

BBC’s Yolande Knell reports from Gush Etzion – part one

BBC’s Yolande Knell reports from Gush Etzion – part two

Looking beyond the BBC’s simplistic portrayal of Gush Etzion

BBC WS airbrushes terror out of a story about Palestinian prisoners

The September 7th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Fifth Floor’ included an item described in its synopsis as follows:

“Radio messages for prisoners
Around 6,000 Palestinians are currently detained in Israeli jails, and one of the ways they get news from home is through Palestinian radio. Tala Halawa of BBC Monitoring is based in Ramallah and has been listening in.”

The introduction by presenter David Amanor (from 17:31 here) likewise did not bother to inform listeners why those people are serving time in prison or that over 2,000 of them are directly responsible for the murders of Israelis. 

Amanor: “Tala Halawa of BBC Monitoring tells me, by the way, the number of Palestinian radio stations in the West Bank has been steadily increasing over the years and so has the variety of programmes aimed at prisoners – yes, prisoners. Around six thousand are currently detained in Israeli jails and for many, radio is a vital contact with the outside world. Tala is based in the city of Ramallah.”

Having told listeners of her penchant for changing radio stations while driving, Tala Halawa went on: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Halawa: “I have been fascinated with the content of the radio programmes aimed at prisoners and their families. So this is Marasil [phonetic] which means messages in Arabic; a broadcast on Palestinian radio station Ajyal FM. The presenter Jenin Zaal is giving out the phone number for families to call with messages for prisoners. Her show lasts for 90 minutes and goes out every Friday. I met her in the radio station in Ramallah city centre.

Jenin told me that those 90 minutes are among the most important in her life but she says the programme is very draining. She says she could never give it up; it’s one way she feels she can contribute to the Palestinian cause and do something for her homeland. The promo for Marasil [phonetic] says the programme breaks down prison bars. You can hear that messages like this one from a wife to her imprisoned husband.”

After listeners heard a voice-over of the message, Halawa went on to give her own interpretations:

Halawa: “This is a kind of a typical news a wife would share with her imprisoned husband knowing that thousands are listening to her call. She wants to tell him how much she misses him but in a relatively conservative society she keeps the conversation limited to their kids’ news. To excel in school is a very important matter in the Palestinian context so it’s always the main topic to discuss on air. Spending too much time on social media platforms and computer games concerns all parents.

I also talked to a former prisoner Rula Abu Daho. She’s now a lecturer in Birzeit University and she’s one of the leading figures in women and gender studies in the Palestinian context. Rula said that getting a message from your family through the radio was almost like a visit. Of course it’s a one-way communication but it still feels like a visit. This is Jenin Zaal taking a call from a girl whose mother is in prison.”

After listeners heard another voice-over Halawa went on:

Halawa: “Another former prisoner Esmat Mansour who spent 20 years in prison. During that time he learned Hebrew and now he established a career in journalism. Esmat told me that he found out from the radio that his 20 year imprisonment was about to end. He said that the prison administration just would not say when his release date was. But then some fellow prisoners in the yard started calling him and telling him to listen to Ajyal FM. When he turned on the radio he heard his own family saying how they were preparing celebrations to welcome him back the next day. So, at least, the waiting was over.

I met Mansour for the first time in 2014. He never mentioned that he knew about his release from the radio programme. That was a surprise for me and this made me realise that those programmes are not simply two hours of broadcast: they carry a heavy load of human stories that deserve to be heard.”

Obviously Tala Halawa’s interest in “human stories that deserve to be heard” does not extend beyond the people she presents as ‘prisoners’ without the provision of any context whatsoever. BBC World Service listeners were not told that the quoted university lecturer Rula Abu Daho was imprisoned for her part in the murder of Yigal Shahaf in 1987.

“Dusk was settling over the Old City, reaching into its labyrinthine alleys and shrouding its holy sites as Yigal and Ronit Shahaf made their way slowly toward the Damascus Gate. The young couple, chatting in Hebrew with two friends, paid little heed to the dwindling crowds or the shopkeepers closing for the day.

Nearby, four young Palestinians, three men and a woman, waited. When the Israelis paused in front of a jewelry shop near the Via Dolorosa, one of the men ran toward them, aimed a pistol at the back of Yigal Shahaf’s head and fired one shot.

As chaos broke out, the gunman fled, handing his weapon to one of his comrades, who gave it to the woman, a college student who had just joined the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a radical faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The woman, Rula abu Duhou, 19, paid with nine years in prison for her participation in the slaying of an innocent Israeli civilian. And still today, freed by a controversial amnesty, she is unrepentant.

“I’m not sorry for it,” Abu Duhou said recently, her dark eyes direct, as relatives and friends streamed into her family’s comfortable West Bank home to celebrate her release. “On the contrary, I’m proud. And I wish I could do more for my country.””

Neither were BBC World Service listeners informed that the ‘journalist’ Esmat Mansour “spent 20 years in prison” because he took part in the murder of Chaim Mizrahi in 1993 or that since his release in 2013 he has received financial benefits for his part in that act of terror.

“In a typical homecoming package, the Palestinian self-rule government gave him $50,000, the rank of colonel and a monthly stipend of 6,000 shekels ($1,725), a higher-than-average income.”

A month before this item was aired on BBC World Service radio the partially licence fee funded BBC department BBC Monitoring – which purports to “to provide news, information and insight to BBC journalists, UK government customers and commercial subscribers, allowing users to make well-informed decisions” – found it appropriate to publish similar ‘analysis’ by Ramallah based Tala Halawa under the title “The ‘private space’ radio offers to Palestinian prisoners“.

There too Halawa showcased contributions from Rula Abu Daho and Esmat Mansour – but with no mention whatsoever of their involvement in acts of terror. She did however tell subscribers that:

“It is estimated that around 6,000 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli jails as a result of the ongoing conflict between the two sides. Palestinians see them as prisoners of war or political prisoners under international law, while Israel disputes this, saying they are terrorists or active in illegal terrorist organisations.”

As has been noted here on previous occasions, 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 legitimately be defined in such terms.

These two reports further indicate that the BBC has not adequately addressed the issue of politicisation of Middle East related content produced by local staff and the serious question marks that raises regarding the impartiality of BBC content. 

Related Articles:

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

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

 

 

 

 

BBC News report on US aid cut excludes relevant context

On August 24th the BBC News website published a relatively short report titled “US to cut $200m aid to Gaza and West Bank” on its Middle East page.

Readers were told that:

“US President Donald Trump has ordered more than $200m (£155m) in economic aid which was to be allocated to Gaza and the West Bank be redirected elsewhere.

A State Department official said the decision was made after a review “to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with US national interests”. […]

…the US official said the decision took into account “the challenges the international community faces in providing assistance in Gaza, where Hamas control endangers the lives of Gaza’s citizens and degrades an already dire humanitarian and economic situation”.”

Referring to another story from January of this year, the article also reminded readers that:

“It [the US] has already withheld $65m from the UN relief agency for the Palestinians.”

As readers may recall, that story received very generous BBC coverage at the time.

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part one

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part two

BBC News report on UNRWA funding story omits relevant background

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part one

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part two

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part one

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part two

BBC’s Yolande Knell amplifies UNRWA’s PR campaign

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR yet again – part one

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR again – part two

The background to the latest announcement from the US State Department was presented as follows:

“Relations between the Palestinians and the US have been difficult since Mr Trump took power.

They hit a low point after the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. As a result, the Palestinians said the US was unable to continue its mediation role in the peace process and suspended contact.”

The BBC’s report does not tell readers that in January a review of US aid was ordered in light of Palestinian reactions to the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“US President Donald Trump has ordered his administration to review aid to the Palestinians and to the international bodies that sustain them, weighing a significant cut if Palestinian leadership refuses to enter serious peace talks with Israel, a senior administration official said on Thursday.”

The BBC article goes on:

“The US administration, meanwhile, suspended aid to the Palestinians pending a review in the light of the Taylor Force Act back in June.

The act aimed to force the Palestinian Authority to cease paying stipends to families of individuals convicted of terrorism against Israel.”

The BBC News website did not report on the Taylor Force Act when it was passed in March (rather than June) and so readers would be unlikely to be aware of the fact that it relates exclusively to funding that comes from the Economic Support Fund (ESF) which just one of three categories of US aid to Palestinians. Last month visitors to the BBC News website found the first reference to that legislation and were told that:

“In March, the US Congress approved similar legislation, the Taylor Force Act, which suspends some US financial aid to the PA until it stops making payments to prisoners and their families. The act was named after an American killed in an attack by a Palestinian in Israel in 2016.”

However, BBC audiences have not seen any meaningful coverage of the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to stop paying salaries to terrorists even in light of that policy’s negative effect on its finances and aid donations to Palestinians.

Significantly, visitors to the BBC News website also did not see any reporting on the transfer of an estimated $42 million of US aid to the Palestinian Authority when it emerged at the beginning of this month.

“The Trump administration recently released millions of dollars of frozen aid money to the Palestinian Authority, but only for Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, The Times of Israel learned on Thursday.

While Washington says it will continue to review its assistance to the Palestinians, it chose to allocate specific funds for the current fiscal year to specific PA programs that ostensibly serve American interests, including terrorist prevention measures in the territories, an official said. […]

“This assistance underpins Palestinian Authority security cooperation with Israel, which remains in force despite recent tensions,” the official added. “This decision does not in any way prejudge the outcome of our review of other funding streams and programs. It is simply the first decision to emerge from the review, which is ongoing.””

While readers of this BBC report are told that the US is now redirecting “more than $200m (£155m) in economic aid” that had previously been allocated for use by the end of September and that the US “already withheld $65m from the UN relief agency for the Palestinians”, they were not provided with the broader context available on a US State Department interactive webpage: the fact that in 2018 the US has donated well over $92 million to projects in PA and Hamas controlled areas.

 

Weekend long read

1) Palestinian Media Watch examines the Palestinian Authority’s payments to the perpetrators of the Sbarro terror attack which took place 17 years ago this week.

“The suicide bomber was Izz al-Din Al-Masri. His family has received $50,124 as a reward for his suicide bombing.

The terrorist who planned the attack and brought the bomber to Sbarro was Ahlam Tamimi. Tamimi was arrested in September 2001 and received 16 life sentences. In 2011, Tamimi was released as part of the deal to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from his Hamas captors. For her time in prison she has been rewarded by the PA with salary payments of at least $52,681.

The suicide belt was built by Hamas bomb- builder Abdallah Barghouti. Barghouti was arrested in May 2003, and received 67 life sentences – 15 of them for building the bomb used to murder the people in Sbarro. He has received salary payments from the PA of at least $191,526.”

2) At Tablet Magazine, Liel Leibovitz takes a look at the recent experiences of another member of the Tamimi clan.

“Last December, a 17-year-old Palestinian woman named Ahed Tamimi assaulted an IDF soldier and was arrested and sentenced to eight months in prison. She became an inspiration to many critics of Israel, and helped inspire several Democrats to write a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and ask that he take up the cause. “We encourage the State Department to stress the importance of ensuring proper treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli detention,” read the letter, “and address this matter in the Department’s next report on global human rights.”

How, then, are young Palestinians detained by Israel treated? Tamimi herself addressed this issue with an interview on Al-Jazeera celebrating her release.”

3) David Daoud reviews the background to the recent assassination of a Syrian scientist.

“A car bomb killed high-ranking Syrian regime scientist Dr. Aziz Esber on Saturday as he was leaving his home in Masyaf, in the countryside of Syria’s Hama Governorate. The explosion also claimed the life of Esber’s driver. In a statement broadcast on its Telegram channel, the “Abu Amara Special Operations Detachment” – a group affiliated with the Organization for the Liberation of al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front – claimed credit for the attack. The group alleged that, after a “surveillance operation,” it had succeeded “planting explosive device” on Esber’s car, and then detonating it and killing him. […]

A Syrian regime source described Esber as one of the regime’s “most import resources for Syrian military power,” and said he was “capable of developing various kinds of weapons, primarily missiles.” The source claimed that, at the time of his death, Esber had been working on upgrading the Syrian Army’s capabilities to help it achieve “parity with the [Israeli] enemy,” and restoring the capabilities it possessed prior to the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War. This dovetails with information t from Syrian opposition sources claiming that Sector IV was working on a project dubbed “Project 99,” focused on developing SCUD missiles in cooperation with North Korean scientists.” 

4) Matthew Levitt documents the history of Iranian terror and assassinations abroad.

“With the July arrest of an Iranian diplomat in Germany for his role in an alleged plot to bomb a rally of Iranian dissidents in Paris, U.S. officials have warned allies to be vigilant of Iranian terrorist plotting elsewhere. Indeed, there is ample precedent for such concern. For decades, Tehran has been dispatching operatives to Europe to carry out assassinations and other acts of terrorism. […]

Immediately following the founding of the Islamic Republic, the Iranian leadership embarked on an assassination campaign targeting individuals deemed to be working against the regime’s interests. Between 1979 and 1994, the CIA reported that Iran “murdered Iranian defectors and dissidents in West Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Turkey.” Overall, more than 60 individuals were targeted in assassination attempts. In many cases, Hezbollah members functioned as the logistics experts or gunmen in these plots.”

BBC News ignores PA reactions to moves relating to terror payments

As documented here at the time, last week BBC News website visitors saw an exceptionally rare reference to the Palestinian Authority’s payments to terrorists and their families in a report about a new Israeli law linked to that issue.

BBC News does some catch-up reporting on PA’s terror salaries

“In that report BBC audiences were told for the first time that:

“It [the Palestinian Authority] is estimated to spend about $330m each year – about 7% of its budget – on salaries and benefits under the programme.”

The BBC’s first mention of the Taylor Force Act comes in the last paragraph of the report:

“In March, the US Congress approved similar legislation, the Taylor Force Act, which suspends some US financial aid to the PA until it stops making payments to prisoners and their families. The act was named after an American killed in an attack by a Palestinian in Israel in 2016.”

Several days later, attendees at a Fatah Central Committee meeting heard PA president Mahmoud Abbas’ reaction to the Israeli legislation – including the interesting claim that payments to terrorists began even before the existence of any ‘occupation’.

“Abbas lashed out at Israel for its decision to deduct payments made by the PA to families of “martyrs” and security prisoners (from tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinians), saying the Palestinians will take measures in accordance with their interest. He did not provide details about the nature of the measures the Palestinians were planning.

“We won’t allow anyone to interfere with the money [that is paid to the prisoners and families of “martyrs],” Abbas stressed. “They are our martyrs and prisoners and the injured and we will continue to pay them. We started the payments in 1965.””

BBC audiences have not seen any coverage of that statement (along with a vow to reject the anticipated US peace plan before it has even been made public) from Mahmoud Abbas.

As was noted here at the time, the BBC’s report did not inform readers that on the same day as the Israeli law was passed, Australia announced that it had “ended direct aid to the Palestinian Authority over fears its donations will be used to pay Palestinians convicted of terrorism and their families”.

The following day senior Palestinian Authority official Nabil Shaath (who is Abbas’ advisor on Foreign Affairs and International Relations) gave his reaction to that announcement on official PA TV. The Australian reported that Shaath stated:

“Australia’s decision about transferring $10 million angered me greatly. That’s all that Australia pays — $10 million that it pays to us, to the PA, through the international bank,” he said.

“(Australia) said that it transferred (the aid) to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, so that it would not serve the payment of the salaries of the (martyrs and prisoners’) families.

“In other words, the truth is they are worthy of being spat on. You (Australians) are the servants of the US. No decision is made without Australia voting as the US votes — sometimes only these three vote: Israel, America and Australia …

“We do not want to declare war on Australia. But it cannot be, in other words, sometimes there is insolence that is impossible (to accept). I don’t want your $10 million. I don’t want to chase after them.””

Unsurprisingly, BBC audiences have seen no reporting on that story either.

 

BBC News does some catch-up reporting on PA’s terror salaries

Readers may recall that in March of this year the BBC refrained from reporting on the ‘Taylor Force Act’ passed by the US Congress and also ignored the passing of the first reading of a bill relating to the same issue in the Israeli Knesset. On July 2nd that bill became law.

“The Knesset voted into law on Monday a bill to slash funds to the Palestinian Authority by the amount Ramallah pays out to convicted terrorists and the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks.

The bipartisan law passed by 87 to 15. […]

The bill says that welfare payments paid out by the PA to Palestinian prisoners and their relatives, as well as the families of slain attackers, must be deducted from tax revenues Israel transfers annually to the administrative body. The money withheld in this way would instead go into a fund designated to help victims of terror attacks.”

Around 7% of the PA’s annual budget is typically allotted to payments for terrorists and their families and in 2017 – when the annual budget was $4.48 billion – the PA’s financial rewards for terrorism amounted to over $350 million. Nevertheless, the BBC has serially avoided providing its audiences with any serious reporting on the issue.

In one rare and brief mention of the topic in May 2017, the BBC’s Middle East editor came up with a portrayal that is not only devoid of the word ‘terrorism’ but compares Israeli soldiers to convicted Palestinian terrorists.

“In his opening remarks, Mr Netanyahu said that if the bomber in Manchester was Palestinian, and his victims were Israelis, the Palestinian Authority would be paying a stipend to his family.

He was referring to a Palestinian Martyrs’ fund. It pays pensions to people it regards as victims of the occupation, including the families of individuals who have been killed attacking Israelis. There is also a fund to support Palestinians who have been imprisoned by Israel. The Palestinians have compared the payments to the salaries Israel pays to soldiers.”

The only other mention of the issue in BBC News website reporting over the last year came in the form of a paraphrased quote from the US ambassador to Israel in which the BBC replaced the word ‘terrorists’ with ‘militants’.

On the afternoon of July 3rd the BBC News website finally got round to mentioning the Israeli legislation that has been making its way through the Knesset for months – as well as the previously ignored US legislation – in a report titled “Israel freezes Palestinian funds over attacks payouts“.

In that report BBC audiences were told for the first time that:

“It [the Palestinian Authority] is estimated to spend about $330m each year – about 7% of its budget – on salaries and benefits under the programme.”

The BBC’s first mention of the Taylor Force Act comes in the last paragraph of the report:

“In March, the US Congress approved similar legislation, the Taylor Force Act, which suspends some US financial aid to the PA until it stops making payments to prisoners and their families. The act was named after an American killed in an attack by a Palestinian in Israel in 2016.”

The 14 paragraph report includes four paragraphs on the practicalities of the new Israeli law. Two paragraphs are devoted to reactions from Israeli politicians while Palestinian officials’ reactions are given five paragraphs of coverage.

However, a press release concerning “Reallocation of aid to the Palestinian Authority” that was put out by Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs on July 2nd apparently did not reach the BBC’s correspondent in Sydney. 

As the Times of Israel and others reported:

“Australia has ended direct aid to the Palestinian Authority over fears its donations will be used to pay Palestinians convicted of terrorism and their families.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Monday that funding to a World Bank trust fund was cut after she wrote to the Palestinian Authority in late May seeking assurance that Australian funding was not being misspent.

 In a statement, Bishop expressed concern that providing further aid would allow the PA to use the funds for activities that “Australia would never support.””

So while on the positive side BBC News website visitors at long last got to see a mention of American and Israeli legislation related to the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to terrorists, an Australian announcement related to the same topic was ignored.

Related Articles:

US Taylor Force Act not newsworthy for the BBC

Issue neglected by BBC is topic of Knesset bill

A BBC backgrounder claims ‘sketchy’ evidence of PA terror rewards

BBC News silence on PA terror rewards continues

PA’s salaries for terrorists in the news again – but not at the BBC

 

Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at Turkish operations in northern Syria and Iraq.

“As the earliest and most consistent supporter of the Syrian Sunni rebellion, the Turkish leader stood to appear humiliated by the final eclipse of their cause. The Russians, by permitting the Turks and their rebel foot soldiers to enter Afrin, have allowed Erdogan to salvage some dignity from his situation. In affording him this concession (against the will of the Assad regime), Moscow has served its broader goal of drawing the Turks further away from their already severely eroded alliance with the West.”

2) Palestinian Media Watch has details of the PA’s payment of salaries to terrorists under its new budget.

“In the same week that the United States passed the Taylor Force Act, which cuts off nearly all US aid to the Palestinian Authority if it continues paying salaries to terrorist prisoners and allowances to families of terrorist “Martyrs,” the PA publicized the main parts of its 2018 budget. In open defiance of the US, other donor countries, and Israel, the PA’s new budget shows it is continuing to reward terror. The amount the PA has budgeted to spend on the two categories that reward terror (salaries to prisoners and allowances to families of “Martyrs” and wounded) is 7.47% of the total operational budget. The amount equals 44% of the funding the PA hopes to receive in foreign aid in 2018, which is 2.79 billion shekels according to the budget.”

3) At the Tablet Liel Leibovitz discusses the background to the ‘Great Return March’.

“Having withdrawn from the strip in 2005, Israel no longer has any territorial claims on Gaza; but Gaza, as this weekend makes painfully clear, still has territorial claims on Israel. In its continuous attacks on their neighbors to the north, and in its most recent efforts to cross into Israel, Hamas has again proven what the organization’s charter so clearly states, namely that its singular goal is the utter and absolute destruction of the Jewish state. It wants all of the land, not peace or coexistence or any other sensible and reasonable goal, which is why any territorial compromise on Israel’s behalf is nothing more than an invitation to the next, even bloodier conflict.”

4) The same topic is the subject of an article by Eli Lake at Bloomberg View.

“…even if Hamas were committed to nonviolence – which it clearly is not – its aims should horrify Western progressives and conservatives alike. Hamas does not seek a two-state solution; it seeks to replace the world’s only Jewish state with one ruled by fanatics. The title of the weekend’s event, “The March of Return,” is a giveaway. The idea is that every Palestinian family and its descendants have a right to return to the Israeli territory that Palestinians fled during the 1948 war for independence. Such a return would overwhelm the existing Jewish majority.” 

 

US Taylor Force Act not newsworthy for the BBC

Those getting their news from the BBC News website will not be aware that late last week the United States passed legislation relating to the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists and the families of terrorists.

“The Taylor Force Act, legislation that cuts American funding for the Palestinian Authority over its payments to convicted terrorists and their families, officially became a law on Friday evening, after President Donald Trump signed a large budget bill that the act was a part of. The PA protested the passage of the legislation, which is named after Taylor Force, an American citizen murdered in a terror attack in Tel Aviv two years ago.

The bill was first introduced by Republican lawmakers in March of last year. Over the last 12 months, it has gone through a modification process that produced wide bipartisan support for it. The final version that became part of the wider budget bill includes a number of exceptions for projects that will continue to receive American funding, such as hospitals in East Jerusalem, wastewater programs and child vaccination initiatives.

It should be noted that the legislation will not affect the budget that the United States provides to the Palestinian Authority’s security and intelligence forces, which is separate from funding that goes toward dealing with civilian issues within the PA. […]

In a statement it [the White House] said that it “commends the Congress for including the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits most U.S. foreign assistance that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority (PA) until the PA ends the abhorrent practice of providing payments to terrorists and their families in reward for acts of violence.””

Visitors to the BBC News website have to date not seen any reporting on that topic either on the US or Middle East pages. Even the predictable reaction from BBC regular Husam Zomlot did not receive any coverage.

“The PLO excoriated Congress on Friday for passing the Taylor Force Act, a law that threatens to freeze State Department funds to the Palestinian Authority unless it ends its longstanding practice of compensating terrorists and the families of terrorists convicted in Israeli courts.

The PLO envoy to Washington, Husam Zomlot, dismissed the effort as politically motivated. The pressure “does not work, and severely damages the prospects for peace in the Middle East,” he said. […]

The bill, Zomlot said, “punishes” the PA, “which is the only agency committed to peace and nonviolence, and undermines the American-Palestinian bilateral relationship and decades of US investments in the two-state solution.

“The Taylor Force Act represents the most recent effort in this 30-year-old trend of legislations that deliberately targets the Palestinian people,” Zomlot continued, accusing the US Congress of “flagrant bias.””

As regular readers know, the subject of the PA’s payment of salaries to terrorists is one that the BBC more often than not chooses to avoid, despite its relevance to members of the public in the many countries which donate aid to the Palestinian Authority – including of course Britain. Although familiarity with this issue is also key to BBC audience understanding of both the eternal PA budget deficit and the background to Palestinian terrorism, as we see the corporation continues to under-report the topic.  

Related Articles:

BBC News reports on three terror attacks without using the word terror

A new backgrounder on a topic disregarded by the BBC

Issue neglected by BBC is topic of Knesset bill

A BBC backgrounder claims ‘sketchy’ evidence of PA terror rewards

 

Issue neglected by BBC is topic of Knesset bill

In January the BBC responded to a complaint concerning its selective coverage of a speech made by the Palestinian Authority president at a PLO meeting as follows:

“He gave a two-hour speech and we have selected what we believe to be the relevant sections as far as the topic in hand is concerned.

We don’t believe the rest of Mr Abbas’s comments are relevant, or reveal anything that was not previously known– our report contains a section entitled “Did he say anything new?”.

Out of his full speech, you have made a selection of comments that you felt were of note – we believe we have carried the most newsworthy and there will be many more from such a long presentation that will not get reported.” [emphasis added]

As was noted here at the time:

“Obviously the BBC does not believe that – even at a time when the topic of foreign donations to the Palestinians is in the news – its audiences needed to know that Abbas pledged to continue the PA’s policy of making payments to convicted terrorists – a subject that it serially under-reports.

“There is an important matter, and it is the issue of the payments to [the families of] the martyrs, to the families of the martyrs and the prisoners. We steadfastly refuse to stop these payments, and we will not allow anyone to infringe on the payments to the families of the martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners. They are our sons, and we will keep paying them money.””

Along with other outlets the ITIC reports that:

“At its February 27, 2018, weekly meeting headed by Rami Hamdallah, the Palestinian national consensus government authorized the PA general budget for 2018. It stands at $5 billion, with an income of $3.8 billion. Mahmoud Abbas gave final authorization.”

Readers may be aware that around 7% of the PA’s annual budget is typically allotted to payments for terrorists and their families and that in 2017 – when the annual budget was $4.48 billion – the PA’s financial rewards for terrorism amounted to over $340 million.

A bill relating to those PA payments to terrorists recently passed its first reading in the Knesset.

“Fifty-two MKs supported the bill introduced by MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) and a group of MKs, which would deduct welfare payments paid out by the Palestinian Authority to Palestinian prisoners and their relatives from tax revenues Israel transfers annually to the PA. Ten lawmakers voted against the legislation. 

During the debate which preceded the vote, MK Stern said ”In this law there is no coalition or opposition. In the current situation there is an incentive to engage in terror activities, and this postpones peace. Palestinians themselves have testified during interrogations that they continued to engage in terror in order to be imprisoned and receive more money. This law is meant not only to promote the safety of the citizens and residents of the State of Israel, but also to promote peace.””

The bill’s co-sponsor MK Avi Dichter noted that the PA’s 2018 budget would allocate even more money for terror rewards.

Should a version of that bill eventually become law, BBC audiences can expect, as in the past, to see reporting on the withholding of tax revenues to the PA. However audiences will be highly unlikely to understand the background to such reports seeing as the corporation serially avoids providing any serious reporting on the issue.

In one rare and brief mention of the topic last May, the BBC’s Middle East editor came up with a portrayal that is not only devoid of the word ‘terrorism’ but compares Israeli soldiers to convicted Palestinian terrorists.

“In his opening remarks, Mr Netanyahu said that if the bomber in Manchester was Palestinian, and his victims were Israelis, the Palestinian Authority would be paying a stipend to his family.

He was referring to a Palestinian Martyrs’ fund. It pays pensions to people it regards as victims of the occupation, including the families of individuals who have been killed attacking Israelis. There is also a fund to support Palestinians who have been imprisoned by Israel. The Palestinians have compared the payments to the salaries Israel pays to soldiers.”

The only other mention of the issue in BBC News website reporting over the last year came in the form of a paraphrased quote from the US ambassador to Israel in which the BBC replaced the word ‘terrorists’ with ‘militants’.

Obviously it is high time for BBC audiences to see some serious, accurate and impartial reporting on this topic.

Related Articles:

A BBC backgrounder claims ‘sketchy’ evidence of PA terror rewards

BBC News silence on PA terror rewards continues

PA’s salaries for terrorists in the news again – but not at the BBC