BBC ME editor recycles his ‘Israeli Right killed the peace process’ theory

Part five of Jeremy Bowen’s series ‘Our Man in the Middle East’ was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on May 19th. Titled “Recipe for Disaster“, the programme’s subject matter is described as follows in the synopsis:

‘How the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin changed the region’s history, as remembered by BBC Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen. “No political killing in the twentieth century was more successful,” he argues, observing the dramatic effects on the Oslo peace process. “Perhaps there was a moment for peace, and it came, and went.”‘

Like additional episodes in the series, this programme revisits a topic that Bowen has addressed before: in this case in November 2015 when he produced an article headlined with what is for him a rhetorical question – “Did Rabin assassination kill the best chance for peace?”. Nothing in Bowen’s approach has changed since then and his take away messaging once again leaves audiences in no doubt as to which side in the Arab-Israeli conflict killed off “hope” and “peace”.

Remarkably, Bowen’s 25 years in the Middle East have not done anything to improve his Hebrew pronunciation skills and listeners hear the former Israeli prime minister’s surname presented as ‘Ra-bean‘ throughout the programme.

The episode begins with Bowen’s personal recollections of reporting Rabin’s assassination on November 3rd 1995. From 03:58 he turns to the event itself.

“He [Rabin] was shot in the back by a Jewish extremist; a religious ideologue called Yigal Amir. […] Amir believed that Rabin was putting Jews in danger by turning land over to the Palestinians that he and the rest of the Israeli religious right believed had been given by God to the Jewish people. The prime minister had been getting a lot of flack from right-wingers in Israel, where being right-wing means opposing concessions to the Palestinians. He’d faced daily abuse, was accused of treachery and was even portrayed on posters in a Nazi uniform. Rabin’s supporters believed the leader of the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu, was inciting and rabble-rousing against him.” [emphasis added]

Here is what Yitzhak Rabin’s daughter had to say on that topic two years ago:

“I don’t think Bibi sent Yigal Amir. And I don’t think Bibi thought that someone would murder the prime minister.

He understood one thing: that Yitzhak Rabin was standing in his way to becoming prime minister. But I don’t think it ever entered his mind that there could be a murder. This “pulsa denura” (death curse) comes from the darkest realms of religion – where Bibi has not been. I don’t think he ever connected to them. That is where it came from — from those rabbis that preached, preached openly, that Yitzhak Rabin had to be killed because he was going to bring upon us annihilation and disaster.” 

Bowen’s remarkably trite portrayal of the Israeli political map does not include any explanation of the fact that the land to which he refers was designated by the League of Nations as part of the Jewish homeland or that it was subsequently occupied by invading Arab armies in 1948. Likewise, completely absent from Bowen’s recollections of the atmosphere prior to Rabin’s assassination is the surge in Palestinian terror attacks that took place after the Oslo Accords were signed in September 1993.

Referring to the Oslo II agreement, Bowen tells listeners that:

“People on both sides opposed what was happening. The peace rally in Tel Aviv [at which Rabin was assassinated] came as Israel was preparing to hand over the main cities and towns in the West Bank to Palestinian control. The prospect of giving occupied land to the Palestinians sent the Israeli Right into a fury.”

He then gives a highly debatable cameo of the atmosphere at the time:

“Some on the Israeli Left had worried the rally would be a flop. The Right had been making the most noise, shouting the rest of the country down.” [emphasis added]

Listeners are told that: [emphasis in italics in the original]

“If Rabin had lived the Oslo process might still have failed. It had serious flaws for both sides. Some Israelis, especially on the Right, argue that plenty of Palestinians would never accept a Jewish state. They didn’t trust Arafat and looked with loathing on Hamas and Islamic Jihad; two groups that wanted to destroy Israel – not make peace.”

BBC audiences are, as regular readers know, serially deprived of information which would enable them to understand that the Palestinians themselves make it quite clear to this day that they refuse to accept a Jewish state. Bowen again refrains from providing listeners with the essential context of the intense campaign of devastating terror attacks that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were running against Israelis at the time and – as David Horowitz has documented – the effects those attacks were having on public support for the Oslo process.

“…the terrorism that had accompanied the efforts at peacemaking had eaten away at his [Rabin’s] popularity, and he was up against a potent political rival in Benjamin Netanyahu — so potent that mere months after the assassination, even as Israel reeled in horror at itself for the killing, the Likud leader was able to defeat Peres, the interim prime minister and natural heir. In the immediate aftermath of the assassination, Netanyahu was politically toxic, the leader of the camp from whose most radical fringe an assassin had sprung. But Netanyahu was carried to victory, by a nailbiting 29,457 votes, by those very same waves of terrorism — specifically four suicide bombings in February and March 1996 that persuaded a narrow majority of Israelis, however much they mourned for Rabin and for a country that could produce his killer, that the Oslo path, the Arafat path, was a bloody disaster.”

Bowen goes on:

“But many Palestinians accepted Israel’s existence while rejecting Oslo as a bad deal. They argued that Israel was deceiving them while it tightened its grip on the occupied territories, hugely expanding the number of Jewish settlers. Oslo was flawed but it was all they had and until Rabin was killed, it was working – just about. […] Without Rabin the Oslo peace process slowly collapsed. […] No political killing in the 20th century was more successful. Amir set out to kill the prime minister and the peace process.”

In fact, the building of new Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria had ceased with the signing of the Oslo Accords and people who went to live in the existing communities did so of their own accord; not because of any government policy. The Oslo Accords – willingly signed by the Palestinian leaders – of course do not place any limitations on construction in Israeli communities in Area C. 

Bowen tells listeners that:

“The Oslo peace process staggered on for a few years mainly thanks to the energy of American negotiators.”

He fails to inform listeners that additional agreements were signed throughout the five years following Rabin’s assassination, including (paradoxically, as far as Bowen’s theory on the Israeli Right-wing and “opposing concessions to Palestinians” goes) the 1997 Hebron Protocol and the 1998 Wye River Memorandum under the government of Netanyahu.

Conveniently and crucially erasing from the picture Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip – including the evacuation of all communities there – and with only a token, tepid reference to the second Intifada, Bowen goes on to promote the ‘settlements destroy peace’ illusion and the usual partisan BBC presentation of ‘international law’.

“A generation on, Palestinians and Israelis have changed. Palestinians are disunited. Israelis are more Right-wing. Attempts to revive the peace process have failed. Trust and hope were sucked out by escalating Palestinian violence, the built-in violence of the Israeli occupation and the growth of Jewish settlements that are illegal under international law. It’s become commonplace to argue that the chance for a two-state solution has gone because Israel has settled so many of its Jewish citizens in the occupied territories. I think that if the will was there, with clever diplomacy it could still be done. But the will doesn’t exist. On both sides the most dynamic forces are inspired by religious certainty rather than the art of the deal. Religious Zionists drive the Jewish settlement movement forward. They believe that the West Bank and Jerusalem were a miraculous gift from God and cannot be given up. Palestinians do not have good political choices. They’re desperately in need of a political reboot. Fatah, the dominant faction in the PLO is moribund. Its Islamist rivals in Hamas are badly tarnished.”

Bowen’s subsequent and closing portrayal of the Camp David summit in 2000 is equally superficial and predictably he refrains from informing listeners that Arafat’s decision to launch the pre-planned second Intifada did no less damage to the ‘peace process’ than Rabin’s assassination.

“The problems were too big, distance between them too wide. Jerusalem and the land they both wanted could not, in the end, be bargained away. The summit in 2000 ended in a disastrous failure and ushered in years of violence in the second Intifada. Perhaps there was a moment for peace and it came and went.”

Bowen’s story ends there, with no mention of the Clinton peace plan, the 2005 Gaza withdrawal, the fact that Israelis elected Ehud Olmert – who ran on a platform of disengagement from Judea & Samaria – in 2006 or Olmert’s 2008 offer to the Palestinians.

Such inconvenient facts would of course detract from Bowen’s very transparent aim to steer BBC audiences towards the simplistic and inaccurate view that the Israeli Right-wing murdered the peace process, while propagating the illusion of passive Palestinians devoid of all agency or responsibility.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 launches a new ME series by Jeremy Bowen

BBC’s ME Editor misrepresents the Hussein-McMahon correspondence

A predictable view of Jerusalem from the BBC’s ‘Man in the Middle East’

BBC ‘world view’ of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations laid out by Jeremy Bowen

 

 

BBC’s ME editor advances his own partisan narrative in summing up of Trump visit

BBC News website coverage of the US president’s visit to Israel was rounded off with an article by Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen titled “Trump in Middle East: Symbols but little substance” which appeared in the ‘features’ section of the website’s Middle East page on May 23rd.

That article – written by the man whose job description is to “make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” – includes a predictably airbrushed portrayal of the Camp David summit and the Palestinian decision to initiate the terror war known as the second Intifada.

“President Bill Clinton presided over the moment in 1993 at the White House when Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin exchanged a historic handshake and signed the Oslo peace agreement. At the end of his presidency in 2000, a make or break summit failed and was followed by years of violence and unrest.”

Bowen also presents an airbrushed portrayal of the Arab peace initiative of 2002, failing to inform readers that it demands full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, “occupied territories” in south Lebanon, Judea & Samaria and the parts of Jerusalem previously occupied by Jordan – including the Old City – and that its proposals on the issue of refugees are vague. He of course refrains from stating that Hamas – along with Hizballah – has rejected that plan on numerous occasions.

“But the Saudis have had their own Arab peace plan on the table for the last 15 years, offering full peace and recognition of Israel in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the entire territory of the West Bank and Gaza with its capital in East Jerusalem.”

In line with previously seen BBC editorial policy, Bowen portrays the Old City of Jerusalem – including the Western Wall – as “occupied land”.

“Mr Trump became the first serving American president to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the holiest place where Jews can pray. That is being taken as support for Israel.

The wall is in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after it was captured 50 years ago and which most of the world outside Israel regards as occupied land.”

Bowen promotes false equivalence between Israel and Iran:

“In his final speech, at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, President Trump also identified himself, his administration and the United States four-square with Israel.

He repeated, to lots of applause, that he would never let Iran have nuclear weapons. Israel has a substantial and officially undeclared nuclear arsenal.”

He similarly amplifies a notion of false equivalence between Israeli soldiers and convicted Palestinian terrorists:

“One pointer to a potential difference with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu came at the museum. 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.” [emphasis added]

Bowen then tells readers that:

“President Trump, in his speech, did not pick up the cue.

After making many warm remarks about Israel, which earned him standing ovations, he said he believed that the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, was serious about making peace.”

Bowen does not however tell BBC audiences that while the US president’s pre-written speech at the Israel Museum may indeed not have included mention of the PA’s payments to convicted terrorists and the families of dead terrorists, that issue had already been raised during the PA president’s Washington visit earlier in the month and his speech earlier the same day in Bethlehem did allude to that topic.

“Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded or rewarded. We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single, unified voice.”

Bowen goes on:

“Senior Israeli politicians and officials in the room disagree. Prime Minister Netanyahu said earlier this year that President Abbas lied to Donald Trump when they met in the White House.”

The BBC’s Middle East editor does not of course bother to inform the corporation’s audiences that Mahmoud Abbas did indeed lie when he stated during that Washington visit that:

“Mr. President, I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace.”

Of course the BBC’s long-standing editorial policy of avoidance of meaningful reporting on the issue of the PA’s incitement and glorification of terrorism – including among children – means that audiences would be unable to fill in Bowen’s deliberate blanks.  

Yet again we see that rather than “make[ing] a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”, Jeremy Bowen in fact does the exact opposite by exploiting his position to advance his chosen political narrative. 

 

BBC WS programme on anti-terrorist fence promotes inaccurate information

The April 16th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Documentary’ was titled “Walls and Peace“. In that programme, Professor Cathy Gormley-Heenan of Ulster University visited locations in her native Northern Ireland, in the USA and in Israel asking “do walls built for political purposes create bigger problems than they solve?”.

Gormley-Heenan’s own position on the topic (she is not in favour) is very much apparent in the programme’s conclusion but along the way to that summing up, she ostensibly presents both sides of the debate.

The synopsis to the online version of the programme includes the following:

“Professor Gormley-Heenan is a specialist in barrier walls, which she has witnessed and studied in her native Belfast, where “peace walls” still separate Nationalist and Unionist communities. […]

There have been fewer militant attacks in Israel since the barrier with the West Bank was built there, yet many Palestinians are cut off from, for example, their olive groves on the Israeli side. And even Jewish settlers in the West Bank, who are now on the Israeli side of the barrier, and feel safer, are adversely affected by the barrier.”

The photograph used to illustrate the programme is described by the BBC World Service as follows:

‘Photo: man climbs a wall on a ladder. Credit to Heidi Levine, with kind permission’

That photograph – from 2002 – was in fact taken in Israel. Why the BBC chose to change the original caption is unclear.

The section of the programme relating to the anti-terrorist fence constructed by Israel during and after the second Intifada commences at 13:20 and goes on for over 17 minutes.

Gormley-Heenan’s introduction to that section includes generalised speculations about the socio-economic status of the residents of neighbourhoods near the structure which are absent from the sections of the programme relating to Northern Ireland or the USA.

“Here’s another one [wall]. It’s made of concrete slabs 9 meters high in the middle of a major city and there’s a big contrast between the housing on the two sides. This is the separation barrier in East Jerusalem. The Palestinian side is very densely populated with high-rise blocks of housing packed close together. The western, Israeli side is more spacious with more beds of grass and a population – judging by the style and quality of the housing – seems considerably better off. The barrier isn’t a wall everywhere; only in cities. It was put there by popular demand from the Israeli side.”

BBC coverage of the anti-terrorist fence has never been notable for its balance and impartiality and so the fact that listeners to this programme got to hear from the man who planned it is remarkable.

“My name is Colonel (retired) Danny Tirza. In March 2002 in one month we lost 128 people that were murdered by terror attacks. And people said to the government ‘enough is enough; we cannot live with such level of terror. Do something. Build something’. And the government took the first decision to let the army design and build a security fence. And that was the moment when I got the mission to be the head of this project. From 2000 till the end of 2006 we had in Israel more than four thousand terror attacks. We lost in this period 1,562 people that were murdered by terror attacks. We’re a very small country.”

Unfortunately, nowhere in the item are listeners provided with statistics concerning the reduction in the number of terror attacks following construction of the anti-terrorist fence.

Gormley-Heenan then goes to meet a resident of the community of Tzofim in Samaria – Hagai Mayer. Her introduction to that interview includes standard BBC messaging concerning ‘international law’ but does not clarify to listeners that, like all Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria, Tzofim is located in Area C and under the terms of the Oslo Accords, its final status is to be determined in negotiations.

CGH: “Away from the cities, in the more rural areas, things look different. The concrete wall turns into a high metal fence with sensors and cameras. So let’s go meet residents to find out what it’s like to live close to these barriers. This is Tzofim; a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank. The international community considers these settlements illegal but Israel disputes this. In places the separation barrier runs right on the ‘green line’; the 1949 Armistice Line separating Israel from the West Bank. Elsewhere the barrier diverges into the West Bank to surround settlements like Tzofim which now finds itself on the western, Israeli side of the barrier along with 9.4% of the West Bank.”

After her interviewee has told her about his feelings and experiences before and after the fence’s construction and explained the procedures put in place to provide access to Palestinians with agricultural land on the western side of the fence, listeners again hear from Col. Danny Tirza.

CGH: “Despite the inconvenience in places like Tzofim, the barrier is popular in Israel. But why was it built in the particular way that it was? Colonel Tirza remembers why he designed it the way he did.”

DT: “I tried to construct only wire fences. But when we came to urban areas I had to construct concrete walls. In some areas like along road number 6 cross-Israel highway, there are two Palestinian towns – Tulkarem and Qalqilya – and they were shooting from their towns to where the traffic that runs on the main highway of Israel. So I had to construct there concrete wall. Another reason: in urban areas I wanted to reduce the friction between the soldiers and the people that lives on the ground. I didn’t want that some Palestinian children will throw stones on the fence. The fence is very sensitive so the fence will react, the soldiers will run and it will start something between the soldiers and the people on the ground. There is another reason; the fence costs a lot of money and I didn’t want the Palestinians to harm the fence. Therefore, in urban areas – concrete walls. So a lot of people says to me OK, we can understand that but why so high? Mostly it’s 9 meters high. Can you make it some shorter? Well really at first I tried to construct only 6 meters high but six meters, if you climb it, some people can jump. Nine meters; nobody jumps.”

Gormley-Heenan then introduces her own agenda into the story by promoting a specific theory in the form of a ‘question’ and finding an interviewee who will give her the desired answer [from 21:43].

CGH: “I wonder though, could the separation barrier make Israelis less safe in the long-run? Might it be counter-productive by further escalating tensions and anger in the Palestinian areas? Here’s what Barbara Opall-Rome says. She’s the Israel bureau chief of Defense News – a US publication.

BOR: “Absolutely. There’s a fine line between deterrence and provocation. And these physical barriers are deterring but – as you noted – the other side can see it as a source of oppression; something to rebel at, something to gain their courage and act upon. When assessing threats you always have to take two things into consideration; capabilities and intent. So the fact that Israel has built these barriers, whether it’s all along the Gaza border – where they’re reinforcing and fortifying even more – or along all of its borders, with these barriers the ability is diminished but the intent; that could have expanded, that could have been accentuated. So it’s always a fine balance and it’s an interesting question that you pose. I would assume that along with deterrence comes a perception of provocation on the other side.”

Remarkably, that lengthy response to a deliberately posed question completely erases the political and religious ideology behind the terrorism that has necessitated the building of fences in Israel.

Gormley-Heenan than goes to visit Palestinians “on the other side” – beginning in Nazlet-Isa near Baka al Garbiya. There, the head of the village council recounts how the construction of the anti-terrorist fence “affected directly on the local economy of the village because it affected on the income that they were having before through the open road and the open market and shops on the main road of the village”.

It is of course true that the terrorism of the second Intifada – which included several cases of murders of Israeli shoppers in Palestinian villages – and the later construction of the fence caused Israelis to cease shopping in Palestinian areas, as used to be the case. However, without providing the relevant background information, the BBC found it appropriate to include the following statement from that interviewee:

“I have no logical idea about why did they construct such a barrier inside the village. […] they say that it’s for security issues but we don’t understand what are the security concerns.”

Ignoring the Oslo Accords, the fact that Area C is subject to final status negotiations and the fact that the 1949 Armistice Agreement specifically and purposely defined the ‘green line’ as not marking a border, Gormley-Heenan goes on to promote the notion of “Palestinian territory”.

“In Nazlet-Isa the wall is exactly on the ‘green line’ – the 1949 Armistice Line that divides Israel from the occupied West Bank. But elsewhere the barrier diverges from the ‘green line’ and cuts into Palestinian territory; sometimes by several kilometers. As a result, 9.4% of the West Bank is now on the Israeli side of the barrier. Some see this as an Israeli land-grab but Israel says it’s for security, including that of the Jewish settlers.”

That is the second time that listeners to this programme heard the figure “9.4%” together with the word “now”. However, even political organisations that tout that figure – eg UN OCHA and CAABU – clarify that it does not relate to the current situation and that it includes areas such as Ma’ale Adumim where the fence has not yet been constructed.

“Some 85% of the Barrier’s route runs inside the West Bank, rather than along the Green Line; if completed as planned, the Barrier will isolate 9.4% of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.” [emphasis added]

Gormley-Heenan then visits Jayus to interview a man – identified as Abu Azzam – who challenged the route of the fence in court and won his case. Once again erasing the Oslo Accords and final status negotiations from her story, she again promotes the term “occupied Palestinian land”.

CGH: “Just on the other side of the barrier, across from Abu Azzam’s village, is the Jewish settlement of Tzofim that we visited earlier. It’s the one that’s now on the Israeli side of the barrier despite being situated on occupied Palestinian land.”

Gormley-Heenan also facilitates her interviewee’s promotion of patently false claims concerning water and land.

AA: “If it [the fence] is for security they have on the ‘green line’ two fences. No dog, no cat can pass through it. If it is about security, those two fences are enough. And if it is a matter of security, why go 22 kilometers inside West Bank land? So why?

CGH: “So why do you think?”

AA: “It’s clear. It is to steal as much as possible from our main waters in addition to the fertilized areas. We are not allowed to pump water as much as we need.” […]

CGH: “The barrier has given Israel control over more land and resources.”

That, of course, is untrue. It is, however, consistent with the ‘land-grab’ falsehood that has been promoted by the BBC consistently over the years.

Returning to previous interviewee Barbara Opell Rome, Gormley-Heenan chooses to close the part of the programme relating to Israel in a truly bizarre manner [from 30:00].

CGH: “Let’s talk now a little bit about the technology that has underpinned the construction of these barriers. Has it given a boost to the defence industry in Israel?”

BOR: “In a word, yes. Big time yes. This is a multi-million dollar global business. And Israeli industries view themselves as the forefront in this industry. They have proven operationally deployed barriers and technologies that are…and when we talk about a barrier it’s not just a barbed wire fence and ditches and patrol paths. These are sensor-fused border protection elements where they have every 150 to 200 meters there are stationary cameras and radars that are all fused together and they filter in to command centres. It’s fortress Israel and I can tell you that it is big business: billions of dollars. A major company in Israel that is at the forefront is Elbit Systems and Elbit has been selected by the US government some years ago to protect and render some type of similar programme along the border with Mexico.”

Beyond the convenience of creating a smooth transition to Gormley-Heenan’s next port of call – the US-Mexico border – it is difficult to understand why those statements from Opall-Rome were deemed relevant to the programme’s supposed subject matter.

While this programme did go somewhat against the grain of usual BBC reporting on the anti-terrorist fence in that it presented a more accurate picture of actual structure and included rarely heard information from Col. Danny Tirza, it nevertheless stuck to the usual BBC mantras on ‘international law’ and promoted to audiences information that is inaccurate and misleading.

Related Articles:

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3

CAMERA Corrects Defense News on ‘Breaking the Silence’ (CAMERA) 

 

 

 

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

Since the commencement on April 17th of a hunger strike by some of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons led by Marwan Barghouti, the BBC News website’s Middle East page has published no fewer than three reports on the subject.

April 17th: “Palestinians in Israeli jails hold mass hunger strike” 

April 18th: “Israel rules out talks with Palestinian hunger striking inmates

April 19th: “Palestinian anger at Israeli refusal to talk to hunger striking inmates

However, in that remarkable display of conscription to the cause of publicising that story, the BBC has refrained from providing its audiences with background information crucial to their understanding of the topic.

In all three of those articles readers are told that the strike:

“…is being led by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader jailed by Israel for life for five murders.”

They are not, however, informed of the full background of Barghouti’s role in instigating the second Intifada or his involvement in additional acts of terror. Predictably, his victims do not even get a mention from the BBC.

BBC audiences are also told in all three reports that:

“Barghouti has been touted as a possible future successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.”

They have not, however, been informed of the political background to the strike which is rooted in internal Fatah power struggles.

Readers of those three reports are told that the hunger strikers are protesting “detention conditions” and “conditions in Israeli jails”. They are not told what those conditions are or what the strikers are demanding.

“Among the demands from Barghouti and the prisoners are the resumption of a second monthly visit by family members (a benefit that was cancelled by the International Committee of the Red Cross due to budget cuts), the prevention of family meetings being cancelled for security reasons, and the restoration of academic studies and matriculation exams to prisoners. Other demands include more television channels being available in cells and cell phones in security wings.”

Significantly, 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.

There is of course nothing novel about BBC compliance with the PLO’s ‘advice’ to the media. However, the repeated promotion of the narrative according to which convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’ in this over-generously covered story obviously calls BBC impartiality into question.   

Related Articles:

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

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

BBC coverage of prisoner release amplifies narrative of ‘political prisoners’

 

BBC Arabic inaccurately portrays 2002 terror attack victims

On the morning of August 4th 2002 a terror attack took place on a bus travelling to Tsfat. Nine people died and some 40 were wounded in that suicide bombing near Meron Junction. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, which was reported by the BBC at the time.

Among those murdered in that attack were two foreign nationals from the Philippines, two members of the Galilee Druze communities of Sajur and Maghar, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh and residents of the Galilee towns and villages Karmiel, Safsufa, Mitzpe Adi and Mitzpe Aviv.

Following the attack Israeli forces arrested Hamas commander Mazen Fuqaha, who was responsible for dispatching the suicide bomber, in his home town of Tubas in Area A. In 2003 Fukha was sentenced to nine life sentences for his role in the attack. He was released from prison in 2011 as part of the Shalit deal prisoner exchange and deported to the Gaza Strip.

On March 24th 2017 Fuqaha was assassinated outside his home in Gaza City by unidentified gunmen.

While that story did not receive any coverage on the BBC’s English language services, on March 25th a report about Fuqaha’s funeral did appear on the BBC Arabic website. In paragraph 15 of that report the victims of the 2002 Meron Junction terror attack are described as “nine Jewish settlers”.

Four of the nine people murdered in the attack were not Jewish. None of them lived in what the BBC would term ‘settlements’.

This is not the first time that BBC Arabic has portrayed Israeli victims of terror attacks to its audiences as “Jewish settlers” regardless of their ethnicity and place of residence. Clearly that description is neither accurate nor impartial.

Related Articles:

Following complaint, BBC Arabic corrects partisan terminology

Why is BBC Arabic feeding its audiences politicised terminology?

BBC News report whitewashes Arafat’s terrorism

On March 6th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel Arafat street sign dropped after Netanyahu anger“.

The story is summarised in the article’s opening paragraphs:

“An Israeli Arab town has dropped the name of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from one of its streets after Israel’s prime minister objected.

The village of Jatt, in the north of the country, removed the sign, officials said.

On Saturday [sic – actually Sunday] Benjamin Netanyahu said streets in Israel could not be “named after murderers of Israelis and Jews”.”

Readers were not informed that the local council had not obtained the required approval from the Ministry of the Interior for the street name.

The BBC’s article goes on:

“Many Palestinians see Arafat as an icon in their fight for a state but many Israelis view him as a terrorist.”

Yet again we see that the BBC promotes the ‘one man’s terrorist’ cliché, failing to distinguish between means and ends. As has been noted here on previous occasions, in 2009 the philosopher William Vallicella wrote:

“Suppose a Palestinian Arab jihadi straps on an explosive belt and detonates himself in a Tel Aviv pizza parlor. He is objectively a terrorist: he kills and maims noncombatants in furtherance of a political agenda which includes freedom from Israeli occupation. The fact that he is a freedom fighter does not make him any less a terrorist. Freedom is his end, but terror is his means. It is nonsense to say that he is a terrorist to Israelis and their supporters and a freedom fighter to Palestinians and their supporters. He is objectively both. It is not a matter of ‘perception’ or point of view or which side one is on.”

By promoting the notion that Arafat can be seen either as a terrorist or as “an icon”, the BBC continues to propagate a misleading, inaccurate and inherently flawed approach to the subject of terrorism.  

Later on in the article readers are told that:

“Arafat led the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) for 35 years. The movement was sworn to Israel’s destruction and carried out many deadly attacks.

Arafat later renounced violence and won the Nobel peace prize jointly with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in 1994 for agreeing Israel-Palestinian peace accords.

However many Israelis held him responsible for attacks by Palestinian militants from areas under his control during the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) which began in 2000.” [emphasis added]

With Arafat’s planning and financing of the second Intifada being a topic long avoided by the BBC (and one which, not coincidentally, contradicts the corporation’s chosen narrative on the subject), it is hardly surprising to see it framed as an “Israel says” issue. However, not only Israelis know that Arafat instigated the violence: numerous Palestinian figures – including Arafat’s wife – have also said the same.

“Yasser Arafat had made a decision to launch the Intifada. Immediately after the failure of the Camp David [negotiations], I met him in Paris upon his return, in July 2001 [sic]. Camp David has failed, and he said to me: “You should remain in Paris.” I asked him why, and he said: “Because I am going to start an Intifada. They want me to betray the Palestinian cause. They want me to give up on our principles, and I will not do so.” [Suha Arafat, Dubai TV, December 2012]

“He [Arafat] said: “You have to leave Palestine, because I want to carry out an Intifada, and I’m not prepared to shield myself behind my wife and little girl.” Everyone said: “Suha abandoned him,” but I didn’t abandon him. He ordered me to leave him because he had already decided to carry out an Intifada after the Oslo Accords and after the failure of Camp David [July 2000].”” [Suha Arafat, PA TV, November 2011]

“[Arafat] saw that repeating the first Intifada in new forms, would bring the necessary popular, international, and Arab pressure upon Israel, because it was already impossible to continue denying our right in Jerusalem and the right of the refugees, which are the two main topics [of conflict].” [Nabil Shaath, PA TV, November 2011]

“Whoever thinks that the Intifada started because of the hated Sharon’s visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque is mistaken. That was only the straw breaking the Palestinian people’s patience. This Intifada was already planned since [Arafat] the President returned from the recent talks at Camp David [July 2000].” [Imad Faluji, December 2000]

Nevertheless, the BBC continues its long-standing practice of whitewashing terrorism from the record of Yasser Arafat.   

Multiplatform BBC amplification for anti-Israel ‘political statement’ PR campaign

On March 3rd BBC audiences found reports on multiple platforms promoting what is repeatedly and openly defined by a BBC reporter as “a political statement”.

Visitors to the BBC News website found an article titled “Banksy decorates West Bank hotel with views of Israel’s wall” in which they were told that: [emphasis in bold added]banksy-hotel-written

“A hotel which prides itself on the “worst view in the world” is set to attract international attention – because it is a collaboration with the famous street artist Banksy.

The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem looks out on the concrete slabs of the controversial barrier Israel has built in and around the occupied West Bank.

Israel says it is needed to prevent terror attacks. Palestinians say it is a device to grab land and the International Court of Justice has called it illegal.

The rooms of the hotel are also filled with the anonymous artist’s work, much of which is about the conflict.

The owners say it will be a real, functioning hotel, opening on 20 March.

But the hotel is also part art gallery and part political statement.”

As is inevitably the case in BBC content relating to the anti-terrorist fence, readers are not informed that 95% of the structure as a whole is made of wire mesh or that the highlighted ICJ advisory opinion was marred by politicisation.  And of course while the article (together with the other reports on the same theme) includes the standard employment of the qualifying ‘Israel says’ formula to portray the structure’s purpose, the view presented to BBC audiences excludes any mention of the murders of hundreds of Israeli men, women and children by Palestinian terrorists that prompted the fence’s construction.banksy-hotel-written-last-pic 

The caption to the final image illustrating the article reads “The hotel will accept bookings from 11 March, nine days before its opening” and immediately below that readers are again informed that “The Walled Off Hotel opens on 20 March”. BBC editorial guidelines concerning advertising and “product prominence” state:

“…we must avoid any undue prominence which gives the impression that we are promoting or endorsing products, organisations or services”. 

In addition to that written report, visitors to the BBC News website found a filmed report also shown on BBC television programmes. Titled “Banksy hotel, The Walled Off, opens in Bethlehem“, the report is billed:banksy-hotel-filmed

“The hotel has the “worst view of any hotel in the world”, the street artist says, as it is next to Israel’s controversial wall.”

That report was produced by Alex Forsyth – a political correspondent for BBC News who has recently been based in Beirut and who apparently just happened to be 245 kilometers away in Bethlehem on the day that the PR media campaign for this “political statement” was launched. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Forsyth: “This is Banksy’s latest creation. It’s a hotel in Bethlehem. It’s called the Walled Off – which is a play on the famous Waldorf – and the reason for that is it’s situated just feet away from the barrier which separates the West Bank from Israel. More than just a business, this is a political statement by Banksy – a comment on what he sees as the plight of Palestinians. It’s come as a surprise to people living here. Nobody knew he was behind it until today and we can take a first glimpse at what he created so let’s take a little look inside.

This is the reception; it leads through to the lounge area. Everything in here was designed by Banksy. It’s taken some 14 months to create. He fully funded the project although he won’t say how much it’s cost. He describes it as the hotel with the worst view in the world and that is because if you look through the windows you can see the wall which is so nearby. Now that was built by the Israelis and they say it’s essential for their security and to prevent terror attacks. Many Palestinians feel that it encroaches on their freedom and if you look round this hotel you can see on the walls there are symbols of Banksy’s view on the situation here: his political comment. It’s not the first time he’s been to this area. He has painted on the wall itself in the past. Some have criticized him for that, saying he is normalising the wall and that shouldn’t be the case. His argument is that he’s raising awareness and the team behind this hotel are keen to stress that it employs local staff – some 45 people – and is run by a local Palestinian. There are 9 rooms, the prices start at $30 a night but they say this is not a money-making operation; instead this is about raising awareness.”

Even listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on March 3rd were not spared amplification of this latest agitprop stunt. Newsreader Corrie Corfield told audiences (from 26:46 here):banksy-hotel-r4-news

Corfield: “The British graffiti artist Banksy is opening a guest house on the occupied West Bank which he claims will be the hotel with the worst view in the world. The building in Bethlehem is a few feet from part of a wall that was built by the Israelis. Our correspondent Alex Forsyth paid it a visit.”

Forsyth: “From the self-playing grand piano to the Chesterfield sofas, the hotel’s lounge mirrors an English gentleman’s club. But the walls are adorned with images depicting Banksy’s view of the Palestinian plight: a collection of mock security cameras, images of angels wearing gas masks and Israeli soldiers pillow fighting with Palestinians. Entirely designed and funded by Bansky, this is a functioning and permanent guest house – not a temporary installation. Staffed by local Palestinians, prices range from £25 a night for a bunk bed in a bleak dormitory to hundreds for a stay in the plush presidential suite. From almost every room there’s a view of the wall: part of the West Bank barrier built by Israel, which says it’s essential for security. Deliberately situated just feet away, the Walled Off hotel is as much a political statement as a new business.”

Forsyth’s claim that the project is not a “temporary installation” is not supported by the hotel’s website.

banksy-hotel-website

The hotel’s website provides further insight into what the project is “raising awareness” about:

“Britain got its hands on Palestine in 1917 and the piano bar is themed as a colonial outpost from those heady days. It is equipped with languid ceiling fans, leather bound couches and an air of undeserved authority.”

As CNN reported, the press release which accompanied the PR campaign that the BBC elected to generously amplify also included a reference to contemporary British politics.

‘”It’s exactly one hundred years since Britain took control of Palestine and started re-arranging the furniture – with chaotic results,” said Banksy in a press release handed out at the hotel’s opening.

“I don’t know why, but it felt like a good time to reflect on what happens when the United Kingdom makes a huge political decision without fully comprehending the consequences,” the statement read, referencing in one line Balfour and Brexit.’

The BBC, however, chose to focus audience attentions away from those UK related areas of “political comment”, preferring instead to promote the facile slogan “plight of the Palestinians”.

This is of course not the first time (see ‘related articles’ below) that the BBC has taken the editorial decision to promote and amplify what apparently passes as “political comment” on the Arab-Israeli conflict from a person not even prepared to identify himself to the general public.

It is also far from the first time that the BBC has promoted simplistic politicised commentary on the anti-terrorist fence while erasing its proven efficiency – and the hundreds of Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists before its construction – from audience view.

This latest unquestioning self-conscription to a PR campaign promoting anonymous agitprop designed to delegitimise Israel of course further erodes the BBC’s claim of ‘impartiality’.

Related Articles:

BBC inaccurately promotes Banksy propaganda as a ‘documentary’

BBC’s Knell returns to the Gaza rubble

In which BBC Radio 4 insists on describing a fence as a wall

 

 

Revisiting a BBC story from 2002

During the Second Intifada, on September 9th 2002, BBC News reported the arrests of three Jerusalem residents in an article titled “Palestinians ‘planned to poison diners’“.Cafe Rimon art 1

“Israel is holding three young Palestinians from East Jerusalem on suspicion of plotting to poison diners at a café in the city.

Two of the men, who were arrested in August, are also suspected of planning to mount a suicide bomb attack.”

Six days later, BBC News produced another report on the same case – “Palestinian ‘poison plan’ cook charged” – in which audiences were told that:

“A Palestinian cook has been charged by the Israeli authorities with plotting to poison customers at a restaurant in West Jerusalem where he used to work

The man – named as 23-year-old Othman Said Kianiya – was arrested last month along with two other Arab residents of East Jerusalem who have already been charged.

All three were alleged to be working on behalf of the militant group Hamas.”

This week the ringleader of the would-be poisoners was released after completing a fourteen-year prison sentence and photographs of his reception in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber show that the BBC’s use of the word “alleged” with regard to Sufian Bakri Abdu’s links to Hamas was superfluous.

Jabel Mukaber 1

Jabel Mukaber 2

Over the last couple of years, BBC reports have variously told audiences that terrorists hailing from Jabal Mukaber were “ground down by the occupation“, angered by the demolition of houses of other terrorists or enraged by “threats to an important Muslim site“. Audience understanding would of course have been enhanced had BBC also covered the topic of the long-standing links of some residents of that Jerusalem neighbourhood to proscribed terrorist organisations and carried out some serious reporting on the much neglected issue of Hamas’ efforts to boost its infrastructure in PA controlled areas. 

BBC’s ‘In Pictures’ showcases an anti-Israel activist

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.” (BBC Editorial Guidelines, Impartiality, section 4.4.14 – emphasis added)

Like the BBC Editorial Guidelines as a whole, that section applies to all BBC content. However, on May 17th the ‘In Pictures’ page of the BBC News website published an item headlined “Hard Work” (which also appeared in the ‘features’ section of the website’s Middle East page) which failed to conform to that clause.

In Pictures Hard Work

That link leads to a photo essay titled “Traditional industries in the West Bank” in which audiences are told:

“In the West Bank, several traditional Palestinian industries are still utilising historical techniques fine-tuned through generations – but once flourishing industries, such as shoemaking in Hebron or olive oil soap production in Nablus, are barely surviving, with a fraction of their former workforces.

Photographer Rich Wiles has been documenting these industries, some of which may not survive much longer in the current political and economic climate.”

Rich Wiles, however, is not only a photographer: he is also a professional political activist who uses his camera as a tool for the advancement of his chosen political cause – as is apparent from an interview he gave to a local UK newspaper in 2014.

“It might not be an easy place to live, but Rich Wiles feels at home in Palestine.

The Hull-born photographer has spent the past decade in this unsettled part of the world, getting married and starting a family along the way.

Now his latest exhibition – chronicling life in parts of this frequently war-torn region – is on show in London.

“It is never an easy place to live, but it is a beautiful place to live at the same time,” said Rich, who lives in Ramallah with his wife, Cyrine, and their baby daughter, Nadia-Sue. […]

In 2001, at the age of 27, he decided to study for an HND at Hull School of Art and Design.

After becoming involved in the anti-war movement in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, he was invited by friends from the movement to join them on a trip to Palestine.

He went on to work with Creative Partnerships in Hull, where he organised photographic projects with children here and in the West Bank.

In 2005, moved by what he had witnessed, he decided to move to the Aida Camp for Palestinian refugees, which is located just outside of Bethlehem.

Since his arrival in Palestine, Rich has helped to establish the Lajee Centre Arts & Media Unit in the camp.

He now works at BADIL, the Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in Bethlehem.”

In addition to his involvement with the anti-Israel NGO ‘Badil’, Wiles can regularly be found promoting his campaigning photography at outlets such as Al Jazeera, the Hamas-linked MEMO (which, interestingly, describes him as “MEMO photographer Rich Wiles”) and other Hamas-linked outfits such as the ‘Palestinian Return Centre’.

“In the past Wiles has referred to his photography as a tool of activism. “A photograph is never going to give Palestinians their rights,” he says, “though art is part of a culture of change.”

“History shows us that all liberation struggles have involved elements of armed struggle, they’ve involved elements of popular struggle, demonstrations, they’ve involved art, they’ve involved culture and they’ve involved literature. All these things combined make an effective resistance movement.”” (MEMO, 20/8/14)

Little wonder then that the portrayal of  “traditional industries” in Palestinian Authority controlled areas presented to BBC audiences only briefly touches upon the issue of competition with mass production (a difficulty faced by artisan manufacturers worldwide), but does point audience attentions in one particular direction.

“Several olive-oil soap factories were destroyed by an earthquake that hit Nablus in 1927. More recently, during the second Intifada, which began in 2001, Israeli military attacks on Nablus caused further destruction to the historical buildings. And, today, only three factories remain in production.”

The second intifada of course began in September 2000 – not in 2001 – and this portrayal conveniently erases the very relevant fact that it was initiated by the Palestinian Authority and that Israeli military activity in towns such as Nablus (Schem) came after – and as a result of – over eighteen months of Palestinian terror attacks which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians.

“Historically, Palestinian tanneries got hides from neighbouring Arab states. More recently, supplies suffered from Israel’s economic embargo against Gaza’s Islamist rulers, which together with a ban on chemicals for security reasons has brought Zarai tanneries in Hebron to the brink of closure, its managers say.”

The terrorism which brought about restrictions on the entry of dual-use goods into the Gaza Strip (inaccurately described here as an “economic embargo”) and the terrorism of the second intifada which brought about the (later rescinded) ban on the import of sulfuric acid “due to its potential dual use as an ingredient in explosives-making” are predictably erased from audience view.

In the world of propagandists such as Rich Wiles, Palestinians are exclusively portrayed as passive, lacking in agency and free of any responsibility for the outcomes of their choices.

Whilst that approach may be good enough for outlets with a casual relationship with facts and truth such as Al Jazeera and MEMO, the editorial guidelines quoted above were put in place precisely in order to ensure that BBC audiences get accurate and impartial news rather than politically motivated propaganda.

That means that Rich Wiles’ “particular viewpoint” should have been clarified to readers of this article – and no: the link to his personal website right at the bottom of the page does not suffice.

 

BBC prefers pageantry to serious discussion of Abbas’ threats on Oslo accords

As might have been anticipated, the BBC did not skimp on its coverage of the hoisting of the Palestinian flag at the United Nations building in New York. Audiences could choose between a filmed report aired on BBC television news programmes and posted on the BBC News website, an audio report (from 14:01 here) by Nick Bryant on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’  and a written article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page – originally under the title “Palestinian flag to be raised at United Nations” and later with the headline “Palestinian flag raised at United Nations headquarters“.Abbas UN

Whilst the subject of Mahmoud Abbas’ speech at the UNGA on the same day was also covered in the latter two reports, that topic was given notably less attention than the pageantry of flag-raising. In the ‘Newshour’ report, presenter Owen Bennett Jones introduced the item with the following words:

“The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says his people can no longer be bound by agreements signed with Israel. Addressing the UN, he accused the Israelis of continually violating what are known as the Oslo Accords going right back to 1993.”

Rather than providing listeners with any background information on the topic of the broader implications of Abbas’ statement, the item then went on to describe the flag-raising ceremony.

The choice of phrasing in the written article did not clarify to readers that Abbas was referring to the Oslo Accords.

“Addressing the UN General Assembly, Mr Abbas said it was unconscionable that the question of Palestinian statehood remained unresolved.

He also warned that the PA no longer felt bound by agreements with Israel he claimed were “continually violated”.”

Moreover, the paragraphs immediately following that materially misled readers by implying that the Oslo Accords include some sort of restrictions on Israeli building in Judea & Samaria and dictate the release of 26 convicted terrorists.

“”As long as Israel refuses to cease settlement activities and to release of the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners in accordance with our agreements, they leave us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to the implementation of these agreements,” Mr Abbas said.

“We therefore declare that we cannot continue to be bound by these agreements and that Israel must assume all of its responsibilities as an occupying power.””

Again, no information was provided to audiences concerning the likely implications of Abbas’ statement that he “cannot continue to be bound” by what has been described as “a contractual framework of obligations between Israel and the Palestinians, signed as witnesses and guarantors by the King of Jordan, the Presidents of the U.S. and Egypt, the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and Norway, the EU and endorsed by the UN”.

Oddly too, the article’s recap of the last 22 years did not include the one factor which did more than anything else to impede the possibility of a negotiated peace agreement: the PA initiated second Intifada.

“Mr Abbas has in the past threatened to dissolve the PA and hand sole responsibility for the West Bank to Israel if there is no chance of a peace deal.

The PA was set up as an interim administration for the major Palestinian cities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after the 1993 Oslo Accord. It was envisaged that a comprehensive treaty would be concluded within five years.

However, more than two decades of talks with Israel have failed to achieve a final peace settlement and an independent Palestinian state. The last round of negotiations collapsed in April 2014.”

At the end of the report readers were told that:

“The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says Palestinians faced with falling living standards and life under Israeli occupation on the West Bank are growing impatient for some sign of progress in their quest for a Palestinian state.

Raising the flag at the UN may not be as effective as raising that issue further up the world’s diplomatic agenda but it is a tangible achievement and it was within Mr Abbas’s power to deliver immediately, our correspondent adds.”

The vast majority of Palestinians have of course lived under the rule of the Palestinian Authority and/or Hamas for the last two decades and whilst Kevin Connolly did not provide a source for his claim of falling living standards, PCBS statistics show that in PA controlled areas, GDP per capita increased by 0.6% in the second quarter of 2015.

As long time readers well know, the BBC generally avoids reporting on internal Palestinian politics and so it is hardly surprising to see that Connolly’s presentation did not make any mention of factors such as the unresolvable rift between the PA and Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas’ own personal unpopularity, the recent Palestinian demonstrations against the PA or the thorny issue of succession.

And so, rather than present audiences with the full range of information which would enable them to understand the factors behind Abbas’ latest move and its potential consequences, the BBC opted to put the focus on symbolic flag-raising.