Reviewing BBC coverage of the UN GA Jerusalem vote – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the BBC News website’s coverage of the session held at the UN General Assembly on December 21st. In this post we will look at coverage of the same topic on BBC World Service radio, beginning with programmes aired before the vote took place.

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

1) ‘OS‘, BBC World Service radio, 21/12/17, presented by Nuala McGovern, from 00:30 here.

McGovern: “You may have heard me say at the very top of the hour about the United Nations; that they’re preparing to vote on a resolution that would condemn president…US President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, she’s just been speaking.”

Listeners then heard a segment from the US ambassador’s speech which would be repeated in additional BBC radio items relating to the same story.

“The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation. We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.

America will put our embassy in Jerusalem. That is what the American people want us to do, and it is the right thing to do. No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that.

But this vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the UN and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the UN. And this vote will be remembered. Thank you.”

McGovern then brought in the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher, adding her own editorialised comments. 

McGovern: “Ahm…very strong words. I was struck by them listening to Nikki Haley. She is not prepared to apologise in any way obviously for the embassy moving but also seems to be standing firm as in there will be consequences to this vote.”

During the conversation with Zurcher, listeners heard a recording of statements made by the Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at the UN which were also repeated in other programmes.

Cavusoglu: “Before this meeting a UN member state threatened all the other members. We were all asked to vote no or face the consequences. Some are even threatened with the development aid cut. Such an attitude is unacceptable. This is bullying and this chamber will not fall to do that. It is unethical to think that the words and dignity of member states are for sale. Let me put it this way: we will not be intimidated. You can be strong but this doesn’t make you right.”

Later on in the same programme, listeners heard a report from the BBC’s Sally Nabil at the UN.

2) ‘Newshour‘, BBC World Service radio, 21/12/17, presented by Julian Marshall, from 33:04 here.

Marshall: “Members of the UN General Assembly have been threatened by the Trump administration ahead of a vote later today on US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. On Monday the United States vetoed a resolution in the UN Security Council calling on the US to withdraw its recognition. That same resolution will now go before the UN General Assembly and ahead of the vote President Trump has threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that go against the US.”

Marshall later brought in the BBC’s Nada Tawfik who told listeners that “when you speak to member states they do expect about 180 countries possibly out of 193 at the UN General Assembly to support this”. When the vote later took place, fifty-two fewer countries supported the resolution than predicted by Tawfik.

The item also included an interestingly timed report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman (from 37:31) concerning evangelical Christian groups from the US touring Israel, with Bateman claiming that members of such groups had voted for Trump in huge numbers and were one of the reasons – together with “support from Jewish donors in the US” – for the US president’s December 6th announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The BBC World Service also aired an item on the story after the UN GA vote had taken place.

3) ‘Newshour‘, BBC World Service radio, 21/12/17, presented by Tim Franks, from 35:58 here.

Franks: “Not all votes at the United Nations are equal. Ones emanating from the UN General Assembly are non-binding but the effects of today’s vote in the assembly could, at least according to President Trump, be long-lasting. He’s warned that the US will remember those countries which voted for the resolution overwhelmingly passed today. The resolution calls on the US to withdraw its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Mr Trump said that the list of yea-sayers would be recounted next time they come asking for aid or help from Washington.”

Listeners then heard the same recording of the Turkish foreign minister’s statements aired in other programmes as well as part of the statement made by the US ambassador to the UN GA.

Franks next interviewed Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN, Abdallah al-Mouallimi and began by asking him if he was “concerned about that threat from Nikki Haley and indeed from President Trump”.

Al Mouallimi: “Yes I do hope that this vote will be remembered by the United States because it is a vote in which the entire [sic] international community is making the point that the move taken by the United States is not within its right and it’s not appropriate and should not have been made – certainly not at this time and not outside the parameters of an agreed solution to the situation.”

Franks later asked the Saudi Arabian ambassador what he thought about the statement made by Nikki Haley according to which – in Franks’ own words – “the UN seems to have a particular thing about Israel and a particular thing about Jerusalem and its business is skewed towards taking what they hope are free hits against Israel and against Jerusalem”. Audiences heard the following unchallenged response.

Al Mouallimi: “Well the United Nations should have a special thing about Israel because Israel is an occupying power. It continues to occupy the Palestinian land for now more than 50 years. It continues to deny the Palestinians the right for self-determination. It continues to claim Jerusalem as its own capital without regard to the interests of the Palestinian Muslims and Christians in the city and in the area.”

As we see, the BBC World Service was far more preoccupied with informing audiences about what it portrayed as “threats” issued by the United States than it was with providing them with the context to this UN GA resolution and vote. Notably, with the exception of the recording of Nikki Haley speaking at the General Assembly, listeners did not hear the views of either American or Israeli officials on the story. 

 

BBC Arabic’s Sally Nabil promotes more uncorroborated Six Day War hearsay

As noted here earlier in the week, in an item about the Six Day War aired on BBC World Service radio on June 3rd, BBC Arabic’s Sally Nabil mentioned that her department would be “marking this anniversary with a number of postcards [reports] from the different countries that were occupied during the 1967 war”.

“I’m here in Cairo. I’m filing a postcard with a veteran warrior.”

On June 6th that report appeared on the BBC Arabic website and apparently also on BBC Arabic TV.

The report’s synopsis repeats the claim made in Nabil’s World Service item according to which her interviewee was a prisoner of war ‘for about a year’. As noted here previously, according to the Israeli MFA, all prisoner exchanges with Egypt were completed by January 23rd 1968 and so that claim is obviously questionable.

In the report BBC Arabic’s audiences hear the following:

“I am Amin Abdul Rahman Mohammad Jumaa. I was born in the year of 1944. I am 72 years of age. I enlisted myself in the Egyptian army in 1964.

I was taken as a hostage by Israel for a year. I was released in the end of 1968.

The first day, I entered the camp and the thorns were between 6 to 10 cm.

I was walking barefoot on the thorns and the thorns went in my feet.

We were sitting in the camp, we were all Egyptians and all were starving. They give a quarter piece of toast and then he [the Israeli solider] start to beat you.

They start to investigate you and interrogate. After investigation they take the hostage and he never comes back.

An Israeli soldier then asked us ‘who is thirsty?’ One of the hostages said ‘I am’ so the Israeli solider will take him and kill him with fire [shoot him].

Then another solider comes and asks the same question. Three of us answered him, while one did not give an answer. The solider asked him ‘so you are not thirsty?’ The Egyptian solider replies ‘no’. Then the Israeli solider will take him and tell him ‘so you have dignity, then I am going to kill you’.

They used [a] bulldozer to bury the Egyptian soldiers alive. They do not have values.

I said to myself, I want to take my right but Camp David does not allow me to sue the Israeli state.” 

Obviously Sally Nabil can not have independently verified those claims and allegations before publishing this item. However, as indicated in its synopsis, her agenda in this report (as well as in her World Service item) also includes promotion of attempts by some parties to claim compensation on the basis of such unproven allegations. In the English language item broadcast on June 3rd she told listeners that her interviewee:

“…said ‘I tried to get a compensation from Israel’ but you know there is a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel that was signed in the late ’70s. He said that according to the Camp David peace treaty that each country should compensate its own citizens, so it was the Egyptian government that was supposed to compensate him for what happened to him but he said that the government paid him nothing. He said ‘my pension now it’s about 500 Egyptian pounds’ which is less than $50.”

The court ruling mentioned in the synopsis relates to a case that has been going on for years. While similar allegations have been made throughout more than two decades, that court case rests largely on an Israeli documentary called ‘Ruah Shaked’ from 2007 which caused a diplomatic incident at the time. The fact that the film-maker later admitted that he had made a series of mistakes that created the inaccurate impression that Israeli soldiers had killed Egyptian prisoners of war in 1967 does not interest those pursuing that case in the Egyptian courts.

Obviously it does not interest Sally Nabil either; as we see she is quite happy to promote unverified claims and to amplify allegations that have never been proven to BBC Arabic’s audience of 37 million people.

Related Articles:

BBC WS tells a context-free tale of Egypt’s Six Day War ‘naksa’ 

BBC WS tells a context-free tale of Egypt’s Six Day War ‘naksa’

The June 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Fifth Floor’ included an item (from 27:13 here) billed as follows in the synopsis:

“Egypt’s Naksa Day 
Next Monday is the 50th anniversary of Naksa day, or Day of the Setback. The “setback” for Egypt was their crushing defeat by Israel in the Six Day War. BBC Arabic reporter in Cairo, Sally Nabil, tells us how the day is viewed there now.”

At the start of the programme presenter David Amanor described the upcoming item as follows:

“…and a six-day war with consequences much greater. We’re finding out what young Egyptians today know about the events of June 1967.”

He introduced the segment itself thus:

Amanor: “Now most countries don’t relish their defeats and I guess Egypt is no different. Next week sees the 50th anniversary of what’s generally called the Six Day War in June 1967 but its impact remains much bigger than its short time span might suggest. It was a humiliating defeat for Egypt and its Arab nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. Israel took forces…took possession of the entire Sinai peninsula, leaving Egyptian forces to make a chaotic retreat. In Egypt the war is called the ‘naksa’. Sally Nabil of BBC Arabic tells me the story behind that name.”

What is most noticeable about this item is its complete abdication of responsibility to supply background information and context concerning a fifty year-old event that many listeners will not remember first hand and in particular, the failure to provide audiences worldwide with the facts concerning the Egyptian actions that led up to the war.  

Nabil: “It’s, you can say, an understatement of the word defeat. It’s like literally a setback so it seems that the Egyptian regime at that time did not want to recognise that the army has been defeated. So they used the word ‘naksa’ – or setback – instead of defeat to try to sugar-coat a bit or to convince the people that this is not the end of it; we lost a battle but we did not lose the war.”

Answering Amanor’s question as to whether that is the history taught in Egyptian schools, Nabil told listeners that:

Nabil: “Yeah, absolutely. I remember when I was at school we used to know it as the 1967 ‘naksa’ and they didn’t elaborate much on it, as much as they did on the 1973 war because the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people as well they glorify the 1973 when Egypt managed to take part of Sinai back from Israel and then they made a political settlement and took all of Sinai back.”

The “part of Sinai” gained by Egypt in the Yom Kippur war was of course two small areas to the east of the Suez Canal which were later joined under the terms of a cease-fire agreement that also saw Israel withdraw from areas captured west of the canal. 

Later on Amanor gave Nabil the cue for her next topic:

Amanor: “This is seen as one of the shortest yet most decisive wars in the modern era but it wasn’t just six days for a lot of the soldiers, was it? And there were a lot of casualties.”

Nabil went on to tell an unverifiable story about an unidentified former soldier.

Nabil: “I mean I met a veteran soldier who was caught by Israel. He remained in Israeli detention for about a year and he was sentenced to death but he managed to escape and he said that this year he was detained by the Israeli soldiers has haunted him for years and years to come so for him the 1967 war it’s a lifetime memory.”

According to the Israeli MFA, all prisoner exchanges with Egypt were completed by 23 January 1968 and so Nabil’s claim that the man was “in Israeli detention for about a year” is highly dubious, as are her unsupported claims that he “managed to escape” and that he “was sentenced to death”.

Nabil’s item continued with a description of the man’s dire financial situation and criticism of “the fact that the government turned a blind eye to people like him”. She then digressed to a topic outside the item’s declared subject matter, comparing the current Egyptian government to the Nasser regime, before closing by telling listeners that BBC Arabic will be “marking this anniversary with a number of postcards [reports] from the different countries that were occupied during the 1967 war”.

In conclusion, in this item BBC World Service audiences heard over seven minutes of entirely context-free reporting that included unverifiable and highly dubious hearsay. How the programme’s producers can claim that is accurate and impartial reporting which enhances audience understanding of the topic of the Six Day War is anyone’s guess.  

BBC whitewashes 20th century Jewish emigration from Egypt

BBC Arabic’s Sally Nabil in Cairo has recently produced two items on the topic of what remains of the Egyptian Jewish community. On September 18th a filmed report for BBC television news programmes was also published on the BBC News website under the title “Egypt’s Jewish community’s lost future“. The synopsis reads:Sally Nabil Egyptian Jews

“The Jewish community in Egypt is on the verge of disappearing.

Up until the 1950s, as many as 100,000 Jews called the country home – now, just 12 remain.

The BBC’s Cairo correspondent Sally Nabil explains why.”

However, that ‘explanation’ comes in the form of just three short sentences in Nabil’s filmed report.

“There were around 100,000 Jews in Egypt. Most of them were forced to leave in the 50s and 60s. Egypt was at war with Israel and the government suspected many of them of being spies.”

Sally Nabil also produced an audio version of her report for the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’. That item (available here from 00:49:15) was broadcast on September 18th and presenter James Menendez introduced it in a very similar fashion.

“Now there used to be about 100,000 Jews in Egypt. Most of them were forced to leave in the 1950s and 60s. Egypt was at war with Israel and the government suspected that many of them were spies.”

No further explanation of why only 12 Jews remain in Egypt today is provided in Nabil’s audio report.

Of course the persecution of Egyptian Jews  did not, as the BBC suggests, begin in the 1950s and 60s, but years before “Egypt was at war with Israel” and even before Israel existed.

“The next step was the nationality laws of 1927 and 1929, which favored jus sanguinis (or right of blood). An Egyptian was from then on defined as somebody who had Arab-Muslim affiliation.

The London Convention (1936) granted Egypt independence under King Farouk, and it was followed by a worsening of the nationality laws. According to additional nationality laws (in 1950, 1951, 1953, and 1956), autochthonous Jews became stateless: 40,000 people were turned into “foreigners” in their own country. In 1956, after the Sinai War, a new dimension was added: Egyptian nationality was taken away from anyone who committed acts in favor of enemy states or states with no relations with Egypt. In practice, all Jews were suspected of dual loyalty. This led ultimately to the accusation that all Jews were Zionists.”

“In Egypt, a long process of discrimination in the public service began in 1929. In 1945-1948, Jews were excluded from the public service. In 1947, Jewish schools were put under surveillance and forced to Arabize and Egyptianize their curricula. Community organizations were forced to submit their member lists to the Egyptian state after May 1948 and until 1950. In 1949, Jews were forbidden to live in the vicinity of King Farouk’s palaces.”

Anti-Jewish violence, rioting and economic discrimination also predated the existence of Israel.

“Jews in Egypt faced acute problems in the 1940s but these did not set their mass departure in motion. Rioting against Jews occurred in November 1945, then resumed in June-November 1948, the latter time inspired by the war with Israel. An amendment to the Egyptian Companies Law dated July 29, 1947, required that 40 percent of a company’s directors and 75 percent of its employees be Egyptian nationals, causing the dismissal and [loss of] livelihood of many Jews, 85 percent of whom did not possess Egyptian nationality.”

Clearly these two BBC reports have in no way fulfilled the claim of explaining to audiences why no Jewish community to speak of remains in Egypt and the promotion of the simplistic notion that Jews were forced to leave in the 50s and 60s because they were “suspected […]of being spies” whitewashes a much more complex story.