BBC framing of the upcoming economic workshop in Bahrain continued on June 20th with an item by Yolande Knell aired on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ which was introduced (from 37:29 here) by presenter James Coomarasamy as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Coomarasamy: “Next week in Bahrain the first piece of the Trump administration’s much vaunted Middle East ‘deal of the century’ is due to fall into place at a workshop on the Palestinian economy. But the Palestinian Authority, which has cut ties with the White House, is staying away despite being on the verge of financial collapse. The Israelis have been withholding tax revenues which the PA uses to pay prisoners and families of Palestinians who’ve been killed – payments which Israel regards as encouraging terrorism. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell sent this report.”
The Palestinian Authority of course does not pay any old prison inmate – only those convicted on counts of terrorism against Israelis. Neither does the PA pay every family of a Palestinian who has been killed – only those killed due to their having carried out an attack against Israelis. That information is obviously crucial if audiences are to be able to properly understand why “Israel regards” those payments as “encouraging terrorism”.
Nevertheless, when a slightly different version of Knell’s report was aired on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on June 21st (from 18:53 here), presenter Julian Marshall employed similarly vague language.
Marshall: “Many Arab states now plan to join next week’s US sponsored workshop on the Palestinian economy in Bahrain although the Palestinian Authority, which has cut off ties with the White House, refuses to attend. Meanwhile, the PA itself is on the verge of financial collapse after Israel decided to withhold tax revenues equivalent to the sum the PA pays as salaries to Palestinian prisoners and the families of killed Palestinians. Israel says the payments encourage terrorism. The PA says they support Palestinian nationalist heroes. It now refuses to accept any of its money transfers and has had to cut the wages of tens of thousands of public workers including doctors and teachers as Yolande Knell reports.”
Knell’s report began with an unclear reference to the Sbarro terror attack in August 2001.
Knell: “18 years ago ambulances rushed to the bloody scene of a Hamas suicide bombing. Fifteen people were killed and 130 injured at a pizza restaurant in Jerusalem. The militants who planned it were later jailed by Israel but over the years they’ve been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in Palestinian prisoner salaries.”
Knell did not mention that the planner of the attack was released from prison in 2011. Listeners then heard a man say:
“They are treated as heroes in every sense of the word.”
Knell: “Arnold Roth, who lost his 15-year-old daughter Malki in the attack, says those wages promote terrorism.”
A. Roth: “The longer you serve in this satanic Palestinian Authority payments scheme – incentive scheme – the more money you make per month. What really is galling from the perspective of people like us, who will never see our daughter again, is that there’s no sense whatever that they’ve done something wrong.”
Listeners then heard music.
Knell: “This song, written by Malki, was recorded by her friends in her memory after her death. Her parents have long called for action against those behind the bombing. Frimet Roth welcomed a recent decision by Israel’s government to cut $140 million a year from the taxes they collect on behalf of the Palestinian Authority – a sum equivalent to the payments made to prisoners and relatives of Palestinians who’ve been killed.”
As we see, Knell also did not bother to adequately clarify to listeners that the financial rewards are given only to those involved in terrorism against Israelis.
F. Roth: “I think that the payments made are very crucial and they signal that there is no will for peace on the other side right now. Hopefully there will be changes.”
Knell: “But the latest change has been a crisis in the Palestinian market. PA leaders refused their incomplete tax transfers from Israel and that’s left them with a huge budget shortfall. Prisoner wages haven’t been touched but salaries have been cut for tens of thousands of Palestinian civil servants, including Charly Mansour, a hospital technician.”
Mansour: “It’s a problem for us because our salary’s not so high. When they cut it to half you cannot stay so long for that. And I have 3 children who have many activities to pay for and the loan to the bank, all this stuff.”
Knell: “A rally for prisoners shows how they’re held in high esteem by Palestinians. Along with those who’ve been killed by Israeli security forces, they’re considered to be heroes of the nationalist struggle. Criticism is taboo. There are over five thousand Palestinians held in Israel for security offences, some for murders, others for political activities.”
Knell did not clarify what she means by “political activities” – an omission which is particularly significant given that in the past she has portrayed Palestinian detainees as “political prisoners” to BBC audiences. Knell went on to interview the family of a convicted terrorist without providing enough details of the incident for it to be identified.
Knell: “Baby Mahmoud is named after his grandfather who’s serving a life sentence for killing an Israeli man. His father, Ali Rudaida [phonetic] tells me he was raised on his father’s prisoner wages. Over time they’ve gone up to $1,300 a month.”
Rudaida: “Actually, when we…when my father get to prison his salary was the only funds for the family that covers all our needs.”
Knell: “The family watches a video which shows Mahmoud Rudaida when he was arrested by Israeli soldiers after a shooting in the West Bank desert in 2002. It was the time of the second Palestinian uprising and his wife Basma says he was fighting for Palestinian rights.”
Voiceover: “From outside looking at us they’ll ask why did you do that? Why are you a terrorist? Why don’t they come and see the situation? We’re not allowed any freedom of movement. We’re all in a prison.”
The report ended abruptly there with Knell making no effort to inform BBC audiences that the claim that Palestinians do not have “any freedom of movement” is false and until the Palestinians launched the terror war known as the Second Intifada, there were no restrictions on their freedom of movement.
The version of the report aired on ‘Newshour’ omitted that last part and instead listeners heard Knell say:
Knell: “The issue of the Palestinian prisoners has long divided Israel and the Palestinians. At a time of deep impasse in the peace process it’s back in focus and for now, though the Palestinian Authority is in a dire financial state, there’s no end in sight to this stand-off.”
As long-time readers will be aware, it took the BBC years to even mention the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to terrorists and their families and although slightly more coverage of that subject has been seen in the past year, it is still under-reported.
Now, as the corporation builds its framing ahead of the Bahrain economic conference, the topic of the Palestinian Authority’s finances is obviously relevant and – as one of the factors contributing to the financial crisis – so is the issue of the PA cash rewards to terrorists who have murdered or tried to murder Israelis. Unsurprisingly, Yolande Knell found it appropriate to portray that topic ‘impartially’.
BBC coverage of prisoner release amplifies narrative of ‘political prisoners’
BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’
BBC News does some catch-up reporting on PA’s terror salaries
PA’s self-inflicted financial crisis continues to be ignored by BBC