BBC’s ECU upholds part of BBC Watch ‘Alternativity’ complaint – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, after over six months and three complaints, the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) finally acknowledged that a claim aired in the BBC Two commissioned programme ‘Alternativity’ in December 2017 was “materially misleading”.

However two additional points made in the same complaint by BBC Watch were rejected by the ECU. As readers may know, the first two stages of the BBC complaints procedure are outsourced to a private company and it is hence interesting to take a look at the responses received on those points.

The second point raised concerned a claim made by Danny Boyle while being filmed in Hebron. As was documented here at the time:

“Standing on Emek Hevron street, Boyle then (22:40) presents pure conjecture as ‘fact’.

Boyle: “And the Star of David on the doorways which is declaring that obviously the…that in these circumstances, declaring that this is…this will become a settlement home…is shockingly reminiscent of something we all…one of the worst horrors of the world. That’s a bit mind-boggling.”

BBC Watch contacted a resident of that area and was informed that the Stars of David painted on those buildings are actually graffiti painted by unknown parties. […]

The doorways mentioned by Boyle are in fact entrances to small Arab market shops that were closed during the second Intifada due to Palestinian violence. Not only are those shops unsuitable for conversion into “a settlement home” – they have never even been considered for that purpose.

As we see, therefore, Danny Boyle – who earlier on in the programme admitted that the nearest he had previously ever been to the region was Majorca – has (presumably with a bit of help from his ‘guides’) let his imagination run wild – and presented his own uninformed assumptions as fact.

Moreover, he appears to be making an oblique reference to Nazi confiscation of Jewish property – an analogy that would be considered antisemitic according to the IHRA working definition adopted by the British government.”

In our initial complaint BBC Watch pointed out that Boyle had presented pure conjecture as fact and that:

“Boyle’s claim that the graffiti ‘declares’ that ‘this will become a settlement home’ is unfounded and inaccurate.”

Although we did not raise the issue of Boyle’s apparent Nazi analogy in that complaint, in the reply received at Stage 1a we were informed by BBC Complaints that what appeared to be the case was in fact so.

“In the course of making the film Danny Boyle spent some time in Hebron (visiting both Hebron 1 and Hebron 2) and saw for himself properties formerly owned by Palestinian residents which were now claimed by Israeli settlers, and he saw that the Star of David was used to mark these properties. His comments in this section of the film are a reflection on what he had seen throughout his visit and on his awareness, as someone who loathes anti-Semitism, of what the Nazis had done to Jewish owned property in Germany in the 1930s.” 

In our Stage 1b complaint submitted on January 22nd 2018 we noted that:

“The response provides no proof for the inaccurate claim that the shops on Emek Hevron street “were now claimed by Israeli settlers” – that allegation is simply untrue and unless the BBC can provide factual evidence must be withdrawn. Additionally the response states that Boyle was reflecting on “what the Nazis had done to Jewish owned property in Germany in the 1930s”. The BBC – and Mr Boyle – should be aware that such a Nazi analogy is considered anti-Semitic under the IHRA definition of antisemitism adopted by the UK government.”

The relevant part of the response we received to that complaint was as follows:

“As stated previously, on his trip Danny Boyle saw properties formerly owned by Palestinians that had been claimed by Israeli settlers and marked with the Star of David.  It is your contention that the buildings in this specific scene have never even been considered for the purpose of settlement homes. Nonetheless we believe it was appropriate for Danny to comment on a practise that he had seen throughout his visit.”

Needless to say, no details were provided to support the claim that Boyle had seen Star of David graffiti expressing a claim by “Israeli settlers” to “properties formerly owned by Palestinians” in any other location “throughout his visit”.

In our complaint submitted to the ECU on February 28th 2018 we noted that:

“With regard to the second point raised in my complaint, the BBC once again provides no evidence to support the claim that the Star of David graffiti painted by unknown parties on doors on  Emek Hevron Street ‘declares’ that ‘this will become a settlement home’. Moreover, it again justifies Boyle’s anti-Semitic Nazi analogy while ignoring the fact that other types of graffiti are in evidence on doorways on the same street.”

We included photographs of that additional graffiti, which includes (see here) Arabic writing and an anarchist symbol.

The reply received from the ECU four months after that Stage 2 complaint was submitted is as follows:

In other words, while admitting that Boyle’s remark was “conjecture” which may have been “mistaken as to the motive behind the particular graffito shown”, the BBC ECU still claims that audiences were not materially misled. The “evidence” cited by the ECU consists of three media reports: one from the Palestinian media outlet ‘Maan News’ dating from 2012, one from the New York Times dated 1997 and one from the Times of Israel dated 2014. While those articles may indeed support the ECU’s claim that graffiti can be a “declaration of…hostility to Palestinian residents”, that was not the claim put forward by Boyle in that part of the programme.

The third point raised in our Stage 1a complaint related to a statement made by the narrator at 33:11: [emphasis added]

Colman: “Most Jewish settlers live in fortified settlements accessible by Israeli-only roads.”

BBC Watch pointed out that the claim is inaccurate and misleading, that even according to B’tselem just four Israeli communities are served by roads upon which vehicles with Palestinian plates cannot travel and that:

“Obviously “most” of the people the BBC chooses to call “Jewish settlers” do not live in those four communities.”

The response received at Stage 1a was as follows:

“Jewish settlements in the West Bank are increasingly connected and served by roads inaccessible to Palestinians without Israeli citizenship and Israeli license plates. This is a result of the ongoing Israeli policy of expanding the settlements and their infrastructure.”

When we challenged that response – obviously irrelevant to the point made in the original complaint – at Stage 1b, this was the reply received:

“It is not disputed that the majority of West Bank settlers live in settlements. It is also the case that these settlements are accessible by the network of roads which place restrictions on Palestinians without Israeli citizenship and Israeli license plates.”

In our Stage 2 complaint to the ECU we pointed out that:

“With regard to the third point made in my complaint, the claim that “Most Jewish settlers live in fortified settlements accessible by Israeli-only roads” is simply untrue and the BBC’s claim that “these settlements are accessible by the network of roads which place restrictions on Palestinians without Israeli citizenship and Israeli license plates” is only applicable to the entrance roads to a small number of communities – totaling at most less than 60 kms.”

Four months later the ECU replied with no small amount of ‘whataboutery‘, quoting a report from the politicised UN agency UNOCHA.

Readers can judge for themselves whether six months is an acceptable time-frame for the resolution of a complaint to the BBC and whether or not the practices of outsourcing complaints to a private company and basing responses to complaints on information supplied by political NGOs serves the interests of the public that funds the corporation. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s ECU upholds part of BBC Watch ‘Alternativity’ complaint – part one

How the BBC outsources its complaints system

Political narrative and inaccuracy in BBC Two’s ‘Alternativity’ – part one

Political narrative and inaccuracy in BBC Two’s ‘Alternativity’ – part two

 

 

Advertisements

Framing the topic in BBC Radio 4’s ‘Any Questions?

The synopsis to the July 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Any Questions?‘ reads as follows: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

“Jonathan Dimbleby presents political debate and discussion from Westminster Synagogue in London with the Vice Chair of the Conservative Party responsible for Women Maria Caulfield MP, the crossbench peer Baroness Deech, the founder of moneysavingexpert.com Martin Lewis and the Labour MP Chuka Umunna. Together they discuss the recent apparent second Novichok poisoning, Sadiq Khan’s approval of an inflatable in the shape of a baby Trump, a second referendum on Brexit, whether the UK should move its embassy to Jerusalem, whether the legalisation of recreational cannabis will follow the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.”

Presenter Jonathan Dimbleby is of course on record as saying that the BBC’s decision to uphold parts of complaints made concerning Israel-related reporting by Jeremy Bowen would “cause serious damage” to the corporation’s international standing, while describing those complaints as “lies and distortions”.   

His interventions during discussion of that highlighted question are hence noteworthy.

The question from the audience member concerning the UK embassy in Israel – actually worded “why doesn’t the UK move its embassy to Jerusalem?” – came at 17:50 minutes into the programme (available here) and was immediately followed by a remark from Dimbleby:

Dimbleby: “As of course the US government has done – or Donald Trump has done…”

As was clearly stated at the beginning of the announcement concerning the relocation of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the decision was based on the ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act’ passed by the US Congress in 1995.

“The Congress, since the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (Public Law 104– 45) (the ‘‘Act’’), has urged the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to relocate our Embassy to Israel to that city. The United States Senate reaffirmed the Act in a unanimous vote on June 5, 2017.

Now, 22 years after the Act’s passage, I have determined that it is time for the United States to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This long overdue recognition of reality is in the best interests of both the United States and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

As the second panelist – Baroness Deech – was giving her answer to the question, Dimbleby interrupted. 

[21:51] Dimbleby: “Do you, do you, Ruth, do you not see that there is a big diplomatic – to put it mildly – dilemma when the city is divided between two communities – two groups that are both national groups – and that until you have managed to solve the Palestinian issue, it’s very difficult not to be sending the message that it’s more important to us that Israel has the capital in Jerusalem than it is that the Palestinians have an equal right to part of Jerusalem as their capital?”

Under the terms of the Oslo Accords signed by the PLO and Israel, the status of Jerusalem is one of seven ‘permanent status’ issues yet to be negotiated. Jonathan Dimbleby is obviously in no need of such negotiations, having already decided for himself on the question of ‘rights’ to the city. However Radio 4 listeners heard him frame his own opinion as fact.

When the third panelist to speak – Maria Caulfield – had a slip of the tongue, Dimbleby quickly jumped in, putting words in her mouth.

Caulfield: “…you know some of the demolition of settlements doesn’t do the Israeli government any favours and so there’s a lot of work to be done…”

Dimbleby: “Sorry: some of the demolition of settlements?”

Caulfield: “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Dimbleby: “The creation of settlements.”

Caulfield: “Sorry – the creation of settlements and the demolition of some of the Palestinian…”

Dimbleby [interrupts] “Palestinian homes.”

Caulfield: “…homes…doesn’t do the Israeli government any favours.”

As the BBC itself reported a year ago, no Israeli government has ‘created’ new ‘settlements’ in well over two decades. Dimbleby’s pursuit of accuracy did not however include informing his audience of the vital context of the absence of building permits in cases in which “Palestinian homes” have been demolished.

At the end of that item (28:19) Dimbleby chose to read out two listener responses of the same stripe.

Dimbleby: “Quite a lot of tweets. This from Jonathan Ross: ‘People in power like to throw their weight around. That’s why Israel and its supporters want Jerusalem as their capital’. But – or and – Steve Brooks: ‘Jerusalem is a city that belongs to a whole series of people. Israel cannot reasonably claim it all’.

Jonathan Dimbleby’s efforts to frame the impressions taken away by audiences on this topic are embarrassingly obvious.

Related Articles:

Two BBC programmes claim criticism of Israel brings accusations of antisemitism

 

 

An upcoming lecture for UK based readers

As we have frequently observed:

“For years visitors to the BBC News website have regularly come across claims concerning ‘international law’ in the corporation’s Israel-related content. For example:  

“The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Or:

“More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem – land Palestinians claim for a future state.

The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

As has been noted here in the past, that more or less standard insert does not include a definitive cited source underpinning the claim of illegality and no explanation is given regarding the legal basis for alternative opinions to the one promoted. The claim is erroneously presented as being contested solely by the government of Israel, thereby erasing from audience view the existence of additional legal opinions which contradict the BBC’s selected narrative and thus breaching its own editorial guidelines on impartiality.”

An upcoming event in London organised by UK Lawyers for Israel is therefore of particular interest:

Details and tickets are available here.

Related Articles:

Quantifying BBC ‘due impartiality’ on ‘international law’

 

BBC News website coverage of May 14 Gaza rioting

As we know the BBC News website refrained from providing its audiences with any background information on the topic of preparations for the violent climax to the ‘Great Return March’ events. 

Hence, audiences reading the site’s coverage of the events of May 14th had no idea that Hamas had planned that day in advance with the intention that a particularly high number of rioters would breach the border fence with the aim of forcibly entering Israeli territory and reaching nearby communities.

BBC audiences were not aware that Hamas had urged participants to “bring a knife or a gun” and to use them “to capture soldiers or residents of Israel” who, it stipulated, should be handed over to Hamas to be used as hostages.

The BBC News website produced a ‘live’ page titled “As it happened: Gaza protest violence” which actually included more entries relating to the same day’s ceremony marking the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem than it did reports on the events along the Israel-Gaza Strip border. Notably, no fewer than nine statements condemning Israel were also published on that live page, including some from political NGOs which engage in ‘lawfare‘ against Israel.

In addition to that live page, the BBC News website published an article titled “Gaza clashes: 52 Palestinians killed on deadliest day since 2014” which opened:

“At least 52 Palestinians have been killed and 2,400 wounded by Israeli troops, Palestinian officials say, on the deadliest day of violence since the 2014 Gaza war.

Palestinians have been protesting for weeks but deaths soared on the day the US opened its embassy in Jerusalem.” [emphasis added]

Although tagged ‘Gaza border clashes’, the 920 word article devoted over a third of its word count (314 words) to the topic of the new US embassy in Jerusalem and 126 words to background information on Jerusalem itself, including of course the BBC’s standard partisan mantra on ‘international law’.

“Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

The subject matter of the report as described in its headline received 377 words of coverage and 103 words of ‘analysis’.

Under the sub-heading “what happened at the border” readers were correctly told that the rise in the number of participants (and hence casualties) compared to previous weeks was in fact connected to a factor other than the ceremony marking the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.

“There have been six weeks of protests at the Gaza border, dubbed the “Great March of Return” and led by Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas.

Hamas had always said it would step up the protests before Tuesday, when Palestinians hold their annual commemoration of what they call the Nakba or Catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands fled their homes or were displaced following the foundation of the Israeli state on 14 May 1948.”

The article’s limited description of the incidents themselves was as follows:

“Palestinians hurled stones and incendiary devices while the Israeli military used snipers, as black smoke poured from burning tyres. […]

The Israeli military said it had killed three people trying to plant explosives near the security fence in Rafah. Aircraft and tanks had also targeted military positions belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, it said.”

BBC audiences were not told of three separate shooting incidents, infiltration attempts or arson attacks.

“At around 4 p.m., the time that the US was inaugurating its embassy in Jerusalem, military sources said Hamas-spurred groups were trying to breach the border at several spots along the Gaza fence.

The army said three of those killed were trying to plant explosives at the border fence. In three separate incidents, Palestinian gunmen opened fire at Israeli troops, according to the IDF. There were no injuries among the soldiers.

In one case in the northern Strip, the troops fired back directly. In another case farther south, an IDF tank responded to the shots fired by destroying a nearby Hamas position, the army said. […]

Numerous fires broke out in agricultural fields near Israeli communities, sparked by kites laden with containers of burning fuel flown from Gaza into Israeli territory. Firefighters were called to fight the blazes. But many farmers did not wait for help and worked to put out the conflagrations themselves, tilling the soil around the fires in order to starve out the flames.”

Notably the BBC – which has completely ignored two previous incidents of large-scale vandalism at the Kerem Shalom crossing during ‘Great Return March’ riots – likewise ignored a third incident on May 14th and readers of this article were not told that leaflets warning participants to stay away from the border fence were distributed by the IDF before the rioting began.

Readers were told that:

“Israel says the protests are aimed at breaching the border and attacking Israeli communities nearby.”

They were not informed that – as noted above – Hamas says the exact same.

“Hamas’s leader in Gaza said Thursday he hopes to see hundreds of thousands of Palestinians breach the border fence from Gaza into Israel at next week’s protests to coincide with the US embassy’s move to Jerusalem.”

There was however one welcome innovation in this article. As we have recorded over the past few weeks, previous BBC reports have repeatedly failed to clarify to audiences that the casualty figures from “health officials” that they quoted were in fact provided by Hamas. Readers of this latest report found the following:

“The health ministry, run by Hamas, said children were among those killed.” [emphasis added]

While the fact that at least one of those children was a terror operative appears to have escaped the BBC’s notice – along with Hamas’ acknowledgement that ten of the others killed were its employees – at least that is one small step towards greater transparency and accuracy.

Related Articles:

More ‘Great Return March’ arson and ambitions ignored by BBC News

 

Yom Yerushalayim

Tonight and tomorrow Israel celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem on the 28th of Iyyar 5727 (June 7th 1967), nineteen years after the Jordanian occupation and the expulsion of Jews from neighbourhoods including the Old City.

“Batei Mahse (“Shelter for the Needy” in Hebrew) was the first neighborhood built by Jews in the modern era. Over the years, additional houses were built by philanthropists in Batei Mahse, among them the magnificent Rothschild House.

In the first half of the 18th century, the Old City of Jerusalem’s Jewish population lived in conditions of dire poverty. Few Jews owned land, and most had to rent their apartments from Muslims. In 1857, the opportunity arose to purchase a large plot of land in the southeast of the Jewish Quarter and build on it. This land was purchased by Kolel Hod, an organization of Dutch and German Jews (Hod being an abbreviation of Holland and Deutschland) that administered the funds collected in these countries for the benefit of Dutch and German Jews living in the Land of Israel. Their aim was to build modern apartments in order to relieve the crowdedness of the cramped Jewish Quarter. For the first time in many generations, Jews were able to build their own housing.

During the battles that raged in the Jewish Quarter as part of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, the apartments and cellars of Batei Mahse provided shelter for the Jewish civilian population remaining in the besieged Quarter. Following the surrender to the Arab Legion, the defenders and residents of the Jewish Quarter gathered in Batei Mahse. Thirty fighters still standing after thirteen successive days of battle, along with fifty wounded and 260 civilians aged 13 to 78, were taken into captivity. 1,300 residents of the Jewish Quarter – women, children and the elderly – were forced to leave their homes, which were looted and set on fire. Approximately 1,300 years after the Arabs had allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem with the end of the Byzantine Empire’s rule, the Jews were once again expelled from within Jerusalem’s walls.”

Photo: John Phillips, Life magazine

“After the Six-Day War of 1967, in which eastern Jerusalem was retaken by Israel and the city was reunited, the wreckage in Batei Mahse was cleared away. The square was enlarged and now serves as an open playground for two nearby primary schools – one in the Rothschild House and the other in buildings slightly to the south, some of which are original buildings from before the War of Independence.”

As readers are no doubt aware, the BBC continues to promote the politicised narrative according to which the Batei Mahse buildings and the rest of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem are an illegal “settlement”.

Related Articles:

Censored by Harriet Sherwood: Jewish Voices from Jerusalem (UK Media Watch)

BBC tells audiences location of centuries-old Jewish habitation is an ‘illegal settlement’

Life and Death of a Jewish Courtyard in Jerusalem’s Old City

BBC News continues to link terror to US embassy move

On the afternoon of March 16th a vehicular attack took place near Mevo Dotan.

“A Palestinian driver hit four Israeli soldiers with his car Friday afternoon, killing an officer and a soldier and seriously injuring the others, outside the Mevo Dotan settlement in the northern West Bank. One of the injured soldiers suffered severe head trauma and was fighting for his life.

The military confirmed that the incident was a terror attack. It said the troops were hit while standing near a military guard post.”

A few hours later the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israeli soldiers killed in West Bank car attack” on its Middle East page.  

In line with standard BBC practice, the word terror does not appear anywhere in this report.

“A Palestinian man has driven his car into a group of Israeli troops in the north of the occupied West Bank, killing an officer and a soldier, the Israeli military says. […]

Two other soldiers were injured in the incident.” [emphasis added]

Readers were not told that at the time the article was published, one of the injured soldiers was in serious condition after suffering severe head trauma. Neither were they informed that the terrorist received treatment in an Israeli hospital after the incident.

“The suspect fled from the scene but was later detained. Reports said he was lightly injured.”

The report states:

“The Israeli military said the soldiers had been securing routes near the settlement of Mevo Dotan.”

Readers were not informed that the soldiers were securing that route because – as the Jerusalem Post and others reported:

“Palestinian protesters had been throwing rocks and molotov cocktails toward the road”.  

The BBC did, however, include its standard partial mantra on ‘international law’ in the report.

“The incident happened near the Jewish settlement of Mevo Dotan, west of the Palestinian town of Jenin. […]

The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

As has so often been the case in BBC reports relating to Palestinian terrorism and violence published since early December 2017, this article suggests linkage between the attack and US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel over three months ago.

“The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas hailed the car-ramming incident but did not say it was behind it.

The incident happened amid high tension on Friday after Hamas called for protests to mark 100 days since US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

Hamas had in fact called for a ‘Day of Rage’ rather than “protests” and the attack was also praised by additional Palestinian factions: the PIJ, the DFLP and the PFLP.

The report goes on:

“The US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but has infuriated Palestinians.

The declaration broke with decades of US neutrality on the issue and put it out of step with the rest of the international community.”

In fact, the US Congress of course voted to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital over two decades ago.

The BBC’s article closes with a quote from an AFP report:

“More than 30 Palestinians and four Israelis have been killed in violence since Mr Trump’s declaration, AFP reported.”

Once again, readers were not told how many of the Palestinians killed were engaged in terror attacks or violent rioting at the time and the BBC refrained from clarifying that a higher number of  Israelis were murdered in terror attacks by Palestinians in the three months before the US president made his declaration than in the three months since. 

Related Articles:

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

BBC News continues to blame Palestinian violence on US

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ promotes equivalence between violent rioters and victims of terror

 

 

 

Promoting a well-worn narrative on the BBC News website

On February 11th the BBC News website published an article headlined “Trump warns Israel that settlements ‘complicate’ peace hopes” on its Middle East page.

Based entirely on an interview given by the US president to an Israeli newspaper, the article opened:

“US President Donald Trump has said Israeli settlements “complicate” the peace process with Palestinians and urged “care” over the issue.

He also told an Israeli newspaper that he did not believe the Palestinians, and possibly Israel as well, were ready to make peace.”

The parts of that interview which the BBC chose to highlight were as follows:

“Asked by editor-in-chief Boaz Bismouth when the US would present its peace plan, Mr Trump said: “We will see what happens. Right now the Palestinians are not into making peace, they are just not into it. Regarding Israel, I am not certain it, too, is interested in making peace so we will just need to wait and see what happens.”

Asked whether Israeli settlements would form part of the peace plan, he said: “We will be talking about settlements. The settlements are something that very much complicates and always have complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements.””

And:

“In excerpts of the interview published on Friday, Mr Trump said that recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had been a highlight of his first year in office.

“I think Jerusalem was a very big point and I think it was a very important point,” he said.

“The capital, having Jerusalem be your great capital, was a very important thing to a lot of people. It was a very important pledge that I made and I fulfilled my pledge,” he said.”

Readers also found promotion of the corporation’s standard mantra on ‘settlements’ which – in spite of ‘due impartiality’ requirementsfails to inform audiences of the existence of legal opinions that do not conform to the BBC’s chosen narrative.

“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.”

The BBC’s selected framing was further promoted in a photo caption:

“Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have long been a stumbling block to peace deal”.

As readers who bothered to click on the link to the Israel HaYom article upon which this report is based would see, the US president also answered questions additional topics including Iran’s presence in Syria and Lebanon, the JCPOA, relations between Israel and Gulf states and Egypt’s role in the ‘peace process’.

While the BBC apparently did not consider the US president’s comments on those topics interesting or important enough to report, it did go to the trouble of constructing an entire article around the three responses to the twenty questions asked by the interviewer which could be used to once again promote the political narrative the BBC has chosen to adopt.  

Jeremy Bowen’s Tamimi PR continues on BBC World Service radio

When two different BBC platforms promoted filmed reports by the BBC’s Middle East editor last week on the topic of Ahed Tamimi and her upcoming trial, many called out the bias and manipulation evident in Jeremy Bowen’s reports and in particular the fact that, while concealing from audiences the fact that the charges against Tamimi include incitement, he disingenuously promoted the false notion that she has been charged with terrorism offences because of a “slap”.

Jeremy Bowen is of course well-known for being impervious to any criticism – which he takes very grudgingly – and so it did not come as much of a surprise to see that, despite the flaws in his report having been called out, five days later an audio version that is very similar to the filmed reports was aired on the BBC World Service radio programme Newshour.  

Presenter Razia Iqbal began (from 45:06 here) by promoting Bowen’s ‘terrorism’ red herring once again. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “Now, is a slap an act of terrorism? A 16 year-old Palestinian girl, Ahed Tamimi, is soon to go on trial in an Israeli military court after she tried to eject two Israeli combat soldiers from her family’s property during a demonstration last month. She slapped one of the men when he wouldn’t go. Her mother, Nariman, videoed what happened. When that went viral, amid a storm of anger in Israel at what Ahed Tamimi had done, soldiers raided their home and took mother and daughter to jail.”

In fact Nariman Tamimi was arrested later and not at her home. Iqbal continued:

Iqbal: “Now they’ve both been charged with offences that usually carry stiff custodial sentences. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports now from the Tamimis’ home village Nabi Saleh in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.”

Bowen: “I’m on a hill in Nabi Saleh, a Palestinian village on the occupied West Bank about 45 minutes north of Jerusalem. From this hill I can see a microcosm of the conflict: neighbouring Palestinian village where clouds of tear gas arising from a minor clash. Then, across the valley, an Israeli military base and a Jewish settlement – illegal under international law.”

Bowen refrained from informing his listeners that alternative interpretations of ‘international law’ exist. Predictably, his “microcosm of the conflict” does not include Palestinian refusal to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state or Palestinian terrorism – even though three members of one family were murdered just last summer in that same “Jewish settlement” seen from his vantage point. He went on:

Bowen: “And behind me is the home of Ahed Tamimi who’s become a symbol of the conflict for both sides. Her mother Nariman filmed her slapping the Israeli soldier and Ahed’s father Bassem – a leading Palestinian activist here – is contemplating the fact that his wife and daughter are facing charges that carry years of jail time.”

Tamimi: “It’s hard for me as a father, as a husband, that my wife, my daughter, in the hands of my enemy. I am scared, worried, proud. It’s like knives in my heart, in my body. Err…”

Bowen: “You know a lot of Israelis have said in any country if you attack a soldier you face the consequences, you’re gonna end up in jail. They’re saying that she shouldn’t have done this.”

Tamimi: “What should she done under the occupation? To give them a rose and welcoming them? I think our responsibility included to resist. She should do what she done. The worst issue that the occupation is continue and she will go out of jail to continue the struggle and maybe she will [be] killed.”

Bowen: “This village Nabi Saleh is steeped in protest against the occupation. They have regular demonstrations here which often end up in stone-throwing, tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammo too. Everybody in the village has been affected by the occupation.”

Bowen had no place in his report for any mention of the victims – and their families – of terrorists from that village or the fact that Bassem Tamimi is one of the main instigators of those “regular demonstrations”. The report continued:

Unidentified voice: “There is no occupation. There is no Palestinian nation. There will never be Palestinian state and we didn’t conquered nothing. We don’t occupied nothing.”

Misrepresenting the charges against Tamimi once again, Bowen introduced that voice:

Bowen: “Some Israelis are horrified about the prospect of jailing a 16 year-old girl for a slap. But many more support the soldiers, who could be their sons or brothers. In Jerusalem, here at Israel’s parliament – the Knesset – a leading right-wing MP Oren Hazan goes much further.”

Oren Hazan is number 30 on his party’s list – hardly a “leading” slot – and is considered a highly controversial figure even within his own party. Despite Hazan having been suspended from Knesset activity on the same day that Bowen’s previous reports were aired, he was still portrayed in this audio report as “a leading right-wing MP”.

Bowen: “Let’s talk specifically about Ahed Tamimi and her case. She’s going to go to court very soon. Potentially she faces time in prison.”

Hazan: “I hope so. We need to send her to rehab: to rehab from terror. You talk about her like she’s some innocent girl that just slapped a soldier. She do it for many years.”

Bowen: “When you saw that video of her slapping the soldier, what went through your mind?”

Hazan: “If I was there she would finish in the hospital for sure. Nobody could stop me. I would kick…kick her face. Believe me.”

Bowen: “She’s a 16 year-old girl.”

Hazan: “No, I don’t look at it like this because today as a 16 year-old girl she punched a soldier. Tomorrow she will stuck a knife in his throat. It’s what she do. Today it’s a slap, tomorrow it’s a knife.”

As was the case in one of his previous filmed reports, Bowen implied to BBC World Service listeners that Israeli military courts lack due process.

Bowen: “The chances are that Ahed Tamimi and her mother will end up with jail sentences. The Israeli military courts usually convict. The occupation has been going on for 50 years and it shows no sign of ending. Incidents like this indicate the level of tension and anger that’s often just below the surface. The question is how long before, once again, it erupts into much more serious violence.”

The BBC and Jeremy Bowen knew very well even before his January 31st reports were aired that the twelve charges against Ahed Tamimi include a count of incitement that relates to a video put out by her mother on social media in which Ahed Tamimi’s “message to the world” – as it was described by Nariman Tamimi – was:

“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine”

After his reports appeared numerous people reminded Bowen of that fact on social media. The fact that five days later the BBC chose to broadcast yet another report in which that crucial context was not provided to audiences indicates once again that the corporation and its Middle East editor have self-conscripted to a political campaign that has now included no fewer than ten separate reports on Ahed Tamimi since December 19th.  

 Related Articles:

BBC’s Bowen diverts Ahed Tamimi story with a disingenuous red herring

BBC’s Bowen on CAMERA complaint result: still ‘indignant’ after all these years

BBC’s Bowen revives five year-old grudge in Indy interview

BBC News website promotes the Tamimi clan again

BBC News omits a relevant part of the Tamimi charges story

BBC radio’s inconsistent coverage of charges against Ahed Tamimi

BBC’s Knell reports on the Tamimi case again – and raises a question

BBC misrepresents cabinet decision in report on Ariel terror attack

At around 2:30 p.m. on the afternoon of February 5th a terror attack took place near the town of Ariel.

“An Israeli man was killed on Monday afternoon after he was stabbed in the chest in a terror attack outside the West Bank settlement of Ariel, the army and medics said.

He was identified as Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal, 29, a father of four from the nearby settlement of Har Bracha.”

At the time of writing, the search for the terrorist continues.

“The terrorist, investigators found, is 19-year old Israeli-Arab resident of Jaffa Abed al-Karim Adel Assi, a son of an Israeli mother and Palestinian father from Nablus. […]

After he was stabbed, Ben Gal ran to a bus that stopped at a station nearby while al-Karim gave chase. Reaching the bus, the rabbi knocked on its door for help before immediately collapsing.

The terrorist then fled the scene. An off duty IDF officer who witnessed the attack then chased the assailant in his car and rammed him. 

Despite being hit, al-Karim was able to escape with the help of an unidentified driver who picked him up near the scene of the incident.”

Some three hours after the attack took place a report was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israeli man stabbed to death at West Bank settlement“. The incident and its victim were described in 137 words in the article’s second version and in 117 words in its third version published the following day. [emphasis added]

“An Israeli man has been stabbed to death outside a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, in what Israeli police say was a terrorist attack.

The victim, Rabbi Itamar Ben Gal, was attacked at a bus stop near Ariel.

Israeli security forces are searching for the assailant, who they identified as a Palestinian man.

CCTV footage of Monday’s attack shows Rabbi Ben Gal, a 29-year-old father of four from the settlement of Har Bracha, waiting on a roadside when another man crosses the road and stabs him in the chest.

The Israeli military said a soldier had pursued the suspect in his vehicle and hit him after witnessing the incident, but that he managed to escape.”

The fourth paragraph of the article’s first and second versions implied linkage between the attack near Ariel and a different story.

“It [the attack] comes a day after Israel retroactively legalised an unauthorised settlement outpost in response to the killing of a resident last month.”

In the third version readers were told that:

“Israel retroactively legalised Havat Gilad, an unauthorised settlement, in response to the murder [of Rabbi Raziel Shevach].”

Both those statements are inaccurate and misleading: Havat Gilad was not “retroactively legalized” on February 4th as the BBC claims. Rather – as the Times of Israel reported: [emphasis added]

“The cabinet on Sunday voted unanimously to begin the process of legalizing the Havat Gilad outpost less than a month after the murder of resident Raziel Shevach.

The approved proposal declares the government’s intention to establish the hilltop community southeast of Nablus as a full-fledged settlement “on lands that are privately owned by Israelis or state lands.”

The proposal authorized Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to instruct relevant government bodies to examine the legal aspects of recognizing Havat Gilad as an official settlement. It also tasked the Finance Ministry with auditing the financial costs of establishing a new settlement. […]

However, the proposal’s language regarding the legal ownership of the land hinted at a significant hurdle that still remains ahead of the outpost’s legalization.”

The third version of the report includes an amendment relating to events that took place after its original publication.

“Israeli troops meanwhile have killed a Palestinian who they say shot dead a rabbi as he drove near Havat Gilad outpost in the West Bank last month.

Ahmad Jarrar was shot when security forces raided his hideout in al-Yamoun village near Jenin in the northern West Bank on Tuesday, Israeli media said.

Jarrar is suspected of killing Rabbi Raziel Shevach, a father of six, in a drive-by shooting on 9 January.”

As noted here previously, the BBC did not report the arrest of one member of that terror cell and the killing of another on January 18th.

Readers once again found statements that have been recycled using different numbers on numerous occasions for more than two years. Although the information is readily available, the BBC did not cite the actual number of Israelis murdered in terror attacks since September 2015 but made do with an approximation which is lower than the actual number of victims.

“The attack is the latest in a wave of stabbings, shootings and car-rammings against Israelis, predominantly by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs, since late 2015.

At least 52 Israelis and five foreign nationals have been killed.

Some 300 Palestinians – most of them assailants, Israel says – have also been killed in that period, according to AFP news agency. Others have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops.” [emphasis added]

Notably, the BBC continues to use the “Israel says” formula in that statement and – despite having had over two years to do so – has apparently not bothered to independently confirm how many of the Palestinians killed during that time were in the process of carrying out terror attacks.

While the terror attack which is ostensibly the subject matter of this report got 117 words of coverage in its third version, one hundred and eighteen words were devoted to the topic of ‘settlements’ – including the BBC’s standard portrayal of ‘international law’ which fails to inform audiences of the existence of additional legal opinions. Readers were not told that the Clinton Parameters of 2000 also proposed keeping the larger blocs of Israeli communities under Israeli control.

“Israel has previously said it intends to keep Ariel and some other large settlements blocs in any final peace agreement with the Palestinians. The Palestinians want all the settlements, built on land they claim for a future state, removed.

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.

Last year, the Israeli parliament passed a law allowing for the retroactive legalisation of 55 of them, including in some circumstances those built on private Palestinian land, whose owners would be compensated.”

Clearly the BBC News website needs to amend its inaccurate portrayal of the February 4th cabinet decision concerning Havat Gilad and to inform audiences of the correction.

Related Articles:

BBC News continues to entrench a narrative by means of omission

 

 

 

 

 

Five years of BBC reports on one story show impartiality failure

For the past five years the BBC has been reporting on a proposed housing project in the south Jerusalem district of Givat HaMatos.

Givat HaMatos

In December 2012 BBC audiences were told that:

“…on Wednesday, Jerusalem’s planning committee granted approval for 2,610 homes in a new settlement in East Jerusalem called Givat Hamatos – the first to be built in the area since 1997.”

And, quoting the EU:

“If implemented, these plans would jeopardise the possibility of a contiguous, sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian State and of Jerusalem as the future capital of both Israel and Palestine”.

In October 2014 the BBC told audiences that:

“Israel has been criticised this month for approving new settlement construction in Givat Hamatos neighbourhood in East Jerusalem”

Two months later, in December 2014, the BBC’s Tim Franks revisited the same story.

“When I was posted here a few years ago as Middle East correspondent, one of the dominant stories was over the expansion of Jewish settlements on territory which Israel had occupied in the aftermath of the 1967 war. Undesirable if not downright illegal, said the rest of the world. Israel, for its part, said that the status of the territory was a matter of dispute and in the meantime it needed a place for its burgeoning population to live. So much might be familiar but in the last couple of months the announcement of a big new building development in occupied East Jerusalem has been described as a game-changer and brought furious international criticism. Why?”

Audiences heard just one view on the topic from a representative of the political NGO ‘Ir Amim’ which has received funding from foreign sources – including from the EU.

In late January 2017 Tim Franks returned to the same location and BBC audiences again heard one view of the story; this time from the inadequately introduced founder of that same political NGO.

Franks: “This is Givat HaMatos – an area of scrubland really – on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Just a couple of kilometres behind me to the south is the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. And I’m here with a man called Danny Seidemann – he’s an Israeli attorney and specialist on the mapping of Jerusalem.”

Seidemann: “Givat HaMatos is pretty unique. It’s one of two or three schemes that we call a Doomsday settlement. These settlements are in and of themselves capable of making the two-state solution impossible.”

None of the BBC’s various reports on Givat Hamatos has informed audiences that part of the planned housing units have been ear-marked for Arab residents of the adjacent neighbourhood of Beit Safafa.

To date, not one brick has been laid in the proposed project on which the BBC has already produced four reports and the JCPA recently published a backgrounder that explains why that is the case.

“The plan to build a Jewish residential neighborhood in Givat Hamatos in southern Jerusalem was already approved by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee in 2014. However, it has been frozen for four years.

Under pressure from the United States, Germany, and other European Union countries, the issuing of the construction tenders has been suspended time after time. […]

Germany is playing a central role in pressuring Israel not to build Givat Hamatos; other European countries oppose it as well. In October 2014 French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the decision to build homes in Givat Hamatos threatened the two-state solution: “One cannot claim to support a solution and at the same time do things against without consequences being drawn.” In October 2017, the European Union requested clarifications from Israel about plans for housing units in Hamatos, saying that such building “is likely to harm severely the continuity and the existence of a future Palestinian state.””

While the views of representatives of an EU funded political NGO have been amplified in half of the BBC’s four reports on the story and the EU itself quoted in one other, audiences have not heard any alternative views whatsoever.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“We must apply due impartiality to all our subject matter.  However, there are particular requirements for ‘controversial subjects’, whenever they occur in any output, including drama, entertainment and sport. […]

When dealing with ‘controversial subjects’, we must ensure a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight and prominence, particularly when the controversy is active.  Opinion should be clearly distinguished from fact.” [emphasis added]

Obviously BBC reporting on the proposed housing project in Givat HaMatos throughout the past five years has not complied with those guidelines. Rather, it has exclusively promoted monochrome framing of the story that has denied audiences access to information and perspectives that contradict the BBC’s chosen narrative.