BBC’s ME editor continues his ‘Bedouin village’ narrative – part one

When, on September 5th, Israel’s High Court ruled that an order suspending the demolition of the illegally constructed encampment of Khan al Ahmar would be lifted in seven days, the BBC’s London-based Middle East editor obviously smelt a story. As seen here earlier, he travelled to Israel and produced an audio report on the story on September 13th

BBC’s Bowen recycles the ‘contiguity’ myth on World Service radio

The demolition order was not carried out on September 13th but a few recently placed shipping containers were removed. The following day bulldozers were brought in to remove barriers of rocks which had been set up by local and foreign activists to hamper the still pending demolition process.

Jeremy Bowen and his crew were present in Khan al Ahmar on September 14th and three days later, a filmed report titled “The West Bank village facing demolition” was aired on ‘News at Ten’ on BBC One and the BBC News channel.

“The UK says that Israel’s commitment to a fair and lasting solution to the Palestinian conflict is being undermined by its plans to demolish a village on the West Bank. The United Nations and European Parliament have also being highly critical – saying the move jeopardises any chance of a two-state solution being found in the region. The village of Khan al-Ahmar is home to some 200 residents, but sits on a main road that runs through the West Bank. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen sent this report on the plight of those living there.”

In that filmed report Bowen recycled narratives and deliberate omissions previously seen in his radio report. Once again BBC audiences were not informed that Khan al Ahmar is located in Area C which, under the terms of the Oslo Accords, is under Israeli control pending final status negotiations. Once again he amplified a narrative suggesting that the Jahalin Bedouin tribe had arrived in the area over sixty years ago– despite contradictory evidence. And yet again Bowen did not bother to inform BBC audiences that the Bedouin make no claim to own the land on which they erected their encampment. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Bowen: “In this conflict disputes that look small come with big consequences. It’s dawn in the Judean Desert – occupied by Israel, claimed by Palestinians as part of a future state. In the village of Khan al Ahmar it’s time for Hussam, Kassem and Asil – sleeping outside as it’s still hot – to get up for school. Their mother is making breakfast. Their Palestinian Bedouin community settled here after they were expelled from the new State of Israel in the 1950s. But now the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that the village was built without permission so the state can demolish it.”

Viewers then heard from a person described as the “village preacher”.

Abu Dahook: “It is as if we are waiting to die. That is easier than being forced out of our home to an unknown fate.”

Yet again Bowen did not bother to clarify to viewers that, far from facing an “unknown fate”, the residents of Khan al Ahmar have been offered free plots of land with already existing connections to utilities close by – at a cost of over $2 million to the Israeli tax payer.

Once again ignoring photographic evidence, Bowen repeated the narrative according to which the encampment existed before 1967, while inaccurately claiming that it is ‘surrounded’ by “Jewish settlements” and giving viewers a partisan representation of “international law”.

Bowen: “Khan al Ahmar was established before Israel seized this territory. It’s almost impossible for Palestinians to get building permits here. The UN says Israel discriminates in favour of Jewish settlements which surround the village and are illegal under international law.”

Misrepresenting what the bulldozers were doing at the site on September 14th Bowen went on:

Bowen: “Israeli forces try to block off an access road. Tension has risen since the village lost its final appeal. It’s a ritual after more than 50 years of occupation. Palestinians and their supporters protest. With its military, bureaucratic and political power, Israel prevails. This is a very nasty scuffle. Not lots of people involved but it’s very symbolic and all this is important because it’s about control of this land. Not just now, but in the future. Everything that happens here is politicised and deeply connected to this long and very bitter conflict.”

He then introduced a topic unrelated to the Khan al Ahmar case – which he refrained from telling BBC audiences has been the topic of court cases for the past nine years.

Bowen:”And now there’s President Trump. He’s Israel’s cheerleader; recognising Jerusalem as its capital, expelling Palestinian diplomats from the US and cutting aid to refugees. He’s targeted Palestinian hospitals in Jerusalem, ending a $25 million grant. Pediatric dialysis and cancer wards have lost a quarter of their budgets. Lives, they say, are at risk.”

Viewers next saw an interview with a hospital official apparently filmed on September 13th.

Nammour: “You know we could not believe that, you know, sick children – children with cancer – will be used by any [unintelligible], by an American government. It’s incredible.”

Bowen: “Well the Americans say it’s Palestinians’ fault for not taking part properly in talks and also for taking cases to the International Criminal Court.”

Nammour: “Yeah but I mean why would?…this is politics. Why would a child who has cancer pay the price?”

Neither Bowen nor his interviewee bothered to inform viewers that by September 9th – the day after the US announcement and at least four days before this interview was filmed – the Palestinian Authority had already announced that it would make up the deficit.

Declining to tell BBC audiences which “major concessions” Palestinians have already made, Bowen went on:

Bowen: “On their side of the Jerusalem wall, for the Israelis these are days that smell like victory. Pressure, President Trump believes, will push the Palestinians into more major concessions. The danger is that one-sided coercion could mean violence, not peace.”

Viewers then saw part of an interview with Israel’s Minister of Education which was also promoted separately on the BBC News website along with another version of this report.

Bennett: “President Trump has brought fresh thinking to a region that’s been fairly stagnant in terms of its methodologies and ideas.”

Bowen: “But do you think it’s a good idea to take some really quite severe actions which actually hurt ordinary people and not leaderships?”

Bennett: “Well what Trump is telling the Palestinians: if you think you’ll continue inciting against Jews and killing Jews and somehow time is on your side, you’re wrong. You’ve got to act. You’ve got to move. Let’s make peace. Don’t wait on the sidelines because time is not on your side.”

Bowen closed his report with amplification of the notion that the relocation of squatters from an illegally constructed encampment on land to which they have no claim is a “war crime”.

Bowen: “Down the desert road from Jerusalem the big issues of the conflict are in play. The UN and the Red Cross say forcing the people of Khan al Ahmar out of their village would be a war crime. But at the heart of this are families losing homes, children losing their school and pain for yet another generation.”

Notably the BBC’s Middle East editor – whose job it is to “make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” – chose yet again not to tell the BBC’s funding public that the EU has also carried out illegal construction at Khan al Ahmar and other sites in the vicinity or that the Palestinian Authority and various NGOs have for years used the encampment’s residents as political pawns.

To do so would of course hamper the narrative to which Jeremy Bowen has self-conscripted and which he elected to promote in this report as well as subsequent ones which will be discussed in part two of this post. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bowen recycles the ‘contiguity’ myth on World Service radio

Omission and imbalance in BBC report on ‘Bedouin village’

THE LA TIMES, THE BEDOUIN OF KHAN AL AHMAR AND ‘THEIR LAND’  (CAMERA)

 

 

 

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BBC WS radio programme on Hebron omits vital background

The September 14th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Heart and Soul’ was titled “Hebron’s Cave of Sacrifice“.

“Abraham of the Old Testament, or Ibrahim of Islam, is a vital figure across Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

His prophetic fame, arises from the story of his offering of one of his sons to God, because He commanded him so. God however, spared the son and a sacrificial lamb was offered instead.

In the city of Hebron, are the Caves of The Patriarch [sic] where Abraham is said to be buried and above them stand a Mosque and Synagogue where Jews and Muslims pray. It is an uneasy understanding between two communities that share this ancient city and this home of worship.

Lipika Pelham explores Hebron, the caves that are central to it and the faith of the people who live in this tense, disputed city.”

While Lipika Pelham went to great lengths to present differing versions of the story of Abraham as equally valid narratives, her use of language when describing her visit to Hebron was distinctly less impartial. Areas of Jewish residence in Hebron were exclusively described as “settlements” and the people who live there “settlers”, while Pelham chose to use the Jordanian political terminology for the area in which the city is located. [emphasis added]

“I’m in Hebron in the West Bank – an ancient city at the centre of the religious, tribal and political dispute which dominates this part of the world and far beyond.”

“The current political conflict goes back to 1968; just under a year after Israel occupied the West Bank.”

“He [Abraham] settled in Canaan which included the area we know now as the West Bank, with Hebron at its centre.”

“…Hebron, where some 800 Jewish settlers live in gated communities guarded by about three times as many Israeli soldiers, right at the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods.”

“Step outside of Beit Hadassa and Avraham Avinu settlements, walk through the checkpoints and turnstiles and you are in a typical Middle Eastern souk.”

Describing the Cave of the Patriarchs, Pelham misrepresented the mission of the security forces stationed there to prevent terror attacks.

“Heavily armed soldiers are guarding the entrance to the Jewish side to make sure that visitors are not Palestinian or visibly Muslim. On the left are the wide stone steps into the Ibrahimi mosque – also watched by Israeli soldiers.”

When Pelham visited a museum, listeners heard an account of the 1929 Hebron Massacre which whitewashed the fact that “violence broke out” because of incitement by Arab leaders against Jews and gave listeners to understand that the death toll in Hebron alone was the total number of Jews murdered “all over the country” while highlighting the fact that people who did not describe themselves as “Palestinian” at the time stepped in to help their neighbours. Notably, the record of the ruling British administration was erased from Pelham’s account.  

[14:19] “The story ends with massacre in Hebron of the Jews in 1929. This was a watershed moment in Jewish history as the riots ended the continuous Jewish presence which had lasted in Hebron for millennia. In August 1929 violence broke out all over the country. Sixty-seven Jews were murdered and over a hundred wounded. Bodies were mutilated, 350 Jews were saved by their Palestinian neighbours. During the Passover of 1968 when the Jews reentered Hebron…they wanted to reestablish a Jewish presence in the West Bank city. So in a way, the reality of hostility and separation really started then.”

Perhaps most significantly, listeners to this programme around the world were denied an explanation of the 1997 agreement which brought about the division of the city into two areas – H1 (80% of the city) under Palestinian Authority control and H2 (20%) under Israeli control.

[19:30] “In this tug of war over who Abraham belongs to and who should live in the city of the patriarchs, life goes on on both sides as it has been since the 1997 Hebron Protocol. It followed one of the bloodiest events in Hebron’s current history. In 1994 Baruch Goldstein turned a machine gun on Muslim worshippers in the Cave of the Patriarchs. The Jews and the Muslims until then prayed together in the Mosque-Synagogue without the barriers and checkpoints.”

In other words, in her entire 27 minute report about “this tense, disputed city” Lipika Pelham did not bother to clarify to BBC audiences that Israelis live in specific areas of it because the Palestinians agreed to that arrangement over twenty years ago.

Related Articles:

ANTI-JEWISH VIOLENCE IN PRE-STATE PALESTINE/1929 MASSACRES  (CAMERA)

BBC Radio 4 history programme misleads on Hebron massacre

 

 

 

BBC audiences again get news from a political NGO

As is usually the case in BBC News website reports that come under the category of ethically selective interest in Israeli planning permits’, the prime source quoted and promoted in the August 22nd article headlined “Israel advances plans for 1,000 new West Bank settler homes” was a political NGO. The report opened:

“Israel has advanced plans to build more than 1,000 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Final approval for construction was given for 382 homes, while the others cleared an earlier planning stage.”

Readers were then provided with a link to the website of the political NGO ‘Peace Now’.

“Anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now said most would be built in communities that were likely to be evacuated as part of any peace deal with the Palestinians.”

A click on that link shows that the irrelevant claim which the BBC chose to promote is based on the ‘Geneva Initiative’ which has gone nowhere since its conception fifteen years ago. The BBC did not bother to inform readers of additional past proposals under which that claim would not necessarily be accurate and, as ever, the fact that in the past Israel evacuated communities in 1982 as part of the terms of the peace agreement with Egypt and evacuated all Israeli citizens from the Gaza Strip and from four communities in northern Samaria in 2005 was ignored by the anonymous writer of this report.

Readers were also told that:

“Peace Now reported that 370 of the homes given initial approval would be built in the settlement of Adam, where an Israeli civilian was stabbed to death and two others wounded by a Palestinian last month.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman had promised to build 400 units there in response to the attack.”

Once again BBC audiences were not told that the “400 units” concerned are part of already existing planning that was in the process before the Minister of Defence made his statement.

In addition to the messaging from ‘Peace Now’, readers found statements from a variety of sources promoting the political narrative that Israeli communities are a barrier to peace.

“But a left-wing Israeli party, Meretz, warned that the decision was like “sticking a finger in the eye” of any possible peace process.

There was no immediate response from the Palestinian Authority to the announcement, but it has previously said settlement construction threatens peace and undermines the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. […]

Donald Trump said earlier this year that the settlements “complicate” the peace process and urged Israel to be “careful” over the issue.

His predecessor Barack Obama said they were incompatible with a two-state solution and did not veto a 2016 UN Security Council resolution declaring they had “no legal validity and constitute[d] a flagrant violation under international law”.”

Altogether, those amplified statements made up 50% of the report’s word-count. In contrast, readers saw 23 words presenting what might be categorised as a contrasting view.

“The main body representing Jewish settlers – the Yesha Council – expressed disappointment that plans for “so few” homes were approved on Wednesday.”

As is inevitably the case in BBC News website reporting on the topic of construction in the neighbourhoods and communities it terms ‘settlements‘, audiences found the standard BBC insert on ‘international law’ which makes no attempt to inform them of legal views on the topic that fall outside the corporation’s chosen political narrative.

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

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

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

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on ‘controversial subjects’ state:

“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.”

The BBC’s audiences are however serially denied the “wide range of significant views and perspectives” which would broaden their understanding of this issue because the BBC has instead elected to promote a specific narrative.

Related Articles:

BBC News website misleads on construction plans

Why is this Israeli planning decision different from others for the BBC?

The Jerusalem building permits the BBC didn’t report

More partial reporting on Israeli building permits from BBC News

Examining the BBC’s claim that Israeli building endangers the two state solution

‘Due impartiality’ and BBC reporting on Israeli construction

 

 

 

BBC News website misleads on construction plans

As documented here last week, early on the morning of July 27th a report concerning a terror attack that had taken place the previous evening in the community of Geva Binyamin (Adam) was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

Middle East page 27/7/18

On the evening (local time) of the same day, a follow-up report was published but by the next morning it no longer appeared on the website’s Middle East page, although the first report was left standing.

Middle East page 28/7/18

That follow-up report – titled “Israeli defence minister calls for West Bank settlement expansion” – was, like the earlier article, bizarrely tagged “Gaza border clashes” even though the location of the incident that is its subject matter is nowhere near the ‘Gaza border’.

Readers of that follow-up report were told that:

“Israel’s defence minister says the best way to stop more attacks on Israeli citizens in the occupied West Bank is to expand its settlements.

Avigdor Lieberman announced 400 new homes would be built in Adam, near Ramallah, where a Palestinian fatally stabbed an Israeli man on Thursday. […]

The West Bank settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this. […]

The Israeli army also said it is “reinforcing the defence” in the settlement of Adam, but Mr Lieberman suggested a longer-term strategy was needed.

“The best answer to terror is a settlement expansion in the West Bank,” he tweeted [in Hebrew].”

So did – and can, as this report clearly leads readers to believe – Israel’s defence minister at the drop of a hat order the construction of 400 “new” residential units in Geva Binyamin (Adam) in response to the terror attack that took place the previous evening? As explained at the Times of Israel – the answer to that question is no.

“Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Friday announced that he had directed his ministry to advance plans for the construction of 400 new homes in the West Bank settlement of Adam, in response to the deadly terror attack that took place there overnight. […]

The 400 homes would be part of an already existing plan which will add 1,000 houses in the settlement, 150 of which are already under construction.

Liberman’s directive likely means the plan will be prioritized by the Civil Administration, the Defense Ministry body that convenes once every three months to approve West Bank construction.

The plan still requires several approvals by planning authorities before ground can be broken — a process that sometimes can take years.” [emphasis added]

As we have seen in the past, BBC audiences often receive misleading impressions about the scale of construction in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem because the BBC covers – often repeatedly – announcements of building plans, planning approvals and issues of tenders, regardless of whether they actually come to fruition.

In this report we have yet another example of the BBC presenting residential units that are part of an existing plan as though they were an announcement of “new” building.

Related Articles:

BBC practice of repeat reporting of Israeli planning permits continues

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part two

 

 

One sided reports from BBC Arabic’s Nida Ibrahim – part two

The BBC News website’s July 29th written report on the release of Ahed Tamimi from prison included a filmed report by BBC Arabic’s Nida Ibrahim which was also posted separately on the ‘Middle East’ page under the title “Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi released from prison“.

The filmed report’s synopsis erases the fact that the most serious charge against Tamimi – and one she admitted in her plea bargain – was the charge of incitement.

“Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi has been released from prison after serving an eight month sentence for kicking and slapping an Israeli soldier.”

The synopsis also glorifies Tamimi’s violence:

“While in jail, 17-year-old became the new face of Palestinian resistance, the BBC’s Nida Ibrahim reports.”

In the film itself the charge of incitement was likewise entirely erased from audience view. [emphasis in bold added]

“This is the moment the family of Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi were waiting for. She has been released from prison after serving an eight month sentence for slapping an Israeli soldier. The Palestinian teen had a few words to the crowd.

A. Tamimi: “I want to thank everyone for coming here today. I hope that everyone comes to the press conference so I can deliver my message and the message of all female prisoners who wanted me to speak for them.”

Viewers then saw footage marked “December 2017”.

“This is the incident Ahed was arrested for along with her mother, Nariman Tamimi. She was kicking the soldiers outside her home reportedly an hour after they shot her 15 year-old cousin in the head with a rubber bullet. Since the incident, Ahed has become a heroine in the Palestinian territories. But Israelis accuse her and her family of staging Palestinian propaganda. Her father, a long-time activist himself, denies it.”

BBC Arabic’s Nida Ibrahim was then shown interviewing Bassem Tamimi at his house in Nabi Saleh. Viewers were not told of the nature and extent of the Tamimi family’s ‘activism’.

B. Tamimi: “To resist is normal. Not to resist is abnormal. You must feel guilty that you keep silent under the occupation. We’re fighting for our dignity and our right.”

Ibrahim: “Do you want to try keep her safe at home, for example?”

B. Tamimi: “Is home safe? Is home safe? I don’t think it’s safe. Where is the safe place in Palestine? I don’t know.”

Remarkably, since January of this year Bassem Tamimi has been interviewed in his home by BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Yolande Knell, by BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen and now by BBC Arabic’s Nida Ibrahim.

Viewers were then told that:

“Ahed’s village of Nabi Saleh has long been a point of confrontations. The residents organise weekly protests to oppose the neighbouring Israeli settlement built on Palestinian land.”

That “neighbouring Israeli settlement” is Halamish which is located in Area C and – in contrast to the BBC’s claim – was in fact established on state land.

Viewers then saw more of Nida Ibramim’s glorification of Tamimi.

Ibrahim: “During the time Ahed was in prison her father renovated a big part of the house to prepare for his wife and daughter’s release. The teenager comes to a new home and a new reality being the new iconic face of Palestinian resistance.”

The film closed with a noteworthy image of a Palestinian flag raised over Halamish and the words:

“But for now Ahed will enjoy being home, united with her family.”

Once again we see that Nida Ibrahim and her BBC Arabic colleagues have produced a filmed report for the BBC’s English language services which promotes inaccurate information, erases the main part of Ahed Tamimi’s conviction from audience view, whitewashes the Tamimi clan’s PR business and links to terrorism and glorifies Ahed Tamimi’s violence with propaganda straight out of the family playbook.

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide “accurate and impartial news…of the highest editorial standards“.  

Related Articles:

One sided reports from BBC Arabic’s Nida Ibrahim – part one

BBC News one-sided reporting of Ahed Tamimi story persists

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

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

BBC continues its campaigning with eleventh report on Ahed Tamimi

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ continues to trivialise the Ahed Tamimi story

The BBC’s partisan coverage of the Ahed Tamimi case continues

 

 

BBC’s dual standards on terror attacks continue

On the evening of July 26th a terror attack took place in the community of Geva Binyamin (Adam), north of Jerusalem.

“The regional council spokesman said the terrorist climbed over Adam’s security fence. He then walked deeper into the settlement, crossing a playground area, where he encountered the 31-year-old resident, and stabbed him repeatedly in the upper torso. A second resident, the 58-year-old, came out of a nearby home and was also stabbed. A third resident, hearing the disturbance, went outside and, realizing that an attack was occurring, shot the Palestinian terrorist three times, killing him.”

Doctors were unable to save the life of the first victim, who was later named as Yotam Ovadia – a father of two young children.

Early on the morning of July 27th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israeli stabbed to death by Palestinian in West Bank attack” on its Middle East page.

As is inevitably the case in BBC reporting on terror attacks against Israelis (but not when reporting attacks in the UK or Europe), the BBC refrained from describing the attack as terrorism, with the only reference to terror coming in a direct quote from an Israeli official.

“An Israeli civilian has been stabbed to death in a settlement near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

The 31-year-old victim was taken to hospital where he died of his injuries, a hospital spokesman said.

Two other Israelis were wounded in the attack in Adam on Thursday. One, aged 50, is in a critical condition and the other suffered minor injuries.

The Israeli army says the attacker was shot and killed, reportedly by a civilian who was passing by.

It says troops will be sent to nearby Kubar village, where the 17-year-old Palestinian attacker is reported to have lived.

“The terrorist infiltrated the community of Adam, north of Jerusalem, and stabbed three civilians,” the army said in a statement. “Troops arrived at the scene and are searching the area.””

The BBC did not bother to update its article after the victim’s identity was made public.

Readers were also given the following piece of context-free information:

“Palestinian militant group Hamas said the attack was an act of heroism and revenge for three fighters who were killed in Gaza on Wednesday.”

The BBC however had not reported that previous incident, meaning that audiences were unaware of the fact that it began when:

“Soldiers patrolling the southern part of the Gaza Strip border came under fire Wednesday evening from a sniper within the Hamas-controlled territory, according to the IDF.

The Israeli military later said an officer was moderately wounded by the sniper fire. It said he was taken to Soroka Medical Center in the southern city of Beersheba for treatment.”

Neither do BBC audiences know that Hamas used a group of children to draw the patrol to the area.

“According to the IDF, the sniper fire came as a group of IDF soldiers arrived at a part of the fence that saw a group of 20 minors rioting on the other side. The minors were used as a decoy by the sniper to fire on the soldiers. […]

Military sources told Army Radio late Wednesday…that Hamas had encouraged the demonstration by young Gazans at the fence, drawing an IDF patrol, and then its snipers opened fire on the soldiers.”

Israel responded to the incident with strikes on Hamas military installations in which the members of the terror organisation described by the BBC as “three fighters” were killed. BBC audiences have also not been informed that during the same incident, terrorists in the Gaza Strip launched nine rockets at Israeli civilian communities.

The latter part of the report was given over to what was clearly intended to be background information. Despite the number of terror attacks having declined over the past year, the BBC told its audiences that:

“There has been a wave of stabbings, shootings and car-rammings of Israelis predominantly by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs since late 2015.

Dozens of Israelis have been killed in nearly three years of mainly lone-wolf attacks.

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

As we see, “in nearly three years” the BBC has still not bothered to independently confirm that information itself.

An old mantra was once again recycled:

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

It is worth remembering that since the surge in terror attacks began in late 2015, the BBC has consistently failed to provide its audiences with any serious reporting on the topic of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials. Readers are hence unable to judge for themselves whether or not what “Israel says” is accurate.

Likewise, it is noteworthy that the portrayal of terrorism as being attributable to “frustration rooted in decades of occupation” conforms to a guidance document for members of the international media put out by the PLO in November 2015.

The report closed with the BBC’s standard one-sided presentation of ‘international law’:

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

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

Related Articles:

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How BBC radio programmes misled by adding one letter and a plural

For years the BBC has, in the context of Israel-related stories, defined the term ‘settlements’ as follows:

“Settlements are communities established by Israel on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

This includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.”

For years too, BBC audiences have been told time and time again that “Jewish settlements” are “illegal under international law”.

Consider then how the average BBC audience member would have understood statements concerning “settlements” that appeared in several BBC radio programmes on July 19th. [emphasis added]

In a news bulletin broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today‘ (from 02:04:51 here) listeners were told by newsreader Diana Speed that:

“The Israeli parliament has passed a law declaring that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country. The nation-state law downgrades Arabic as an official language and says Jewish settlements are in the national interest”.

In the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘, presenter Julian Marshall introduced the 11 minute-long lead item (from 0:01:00 here) by telling listeners around the world that:

“…parliament passed a law declaring that only Jews have the right to self-determination in the country. What’s known as the nation-state law also downgrades Arabic as an official language and says Jewish settlements are in the national interest.”

On the same day, listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ heard presenter Dan Damon similarly introduce that show’s twelve and a half-minute long lead item (from 0:00:15 here):

“The law downgrades Arabic as an official language. It says Jewish settlements are in the national interest.”

But is that actually what the legislation says?

In the original Hebrew the relevant clause is titled התיישבות יהודית” – ‘Jewish settlement’, not settlements – and when translated into English it says that:

“The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”

In other words, that clause of the law (which comes after clauses relating to Israel’s connections with Jews around the world and immigration) refers to places of permanent residence for Jews in Israel as a whole. Contrary to what listeners to BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio were told, the law does not say that “Jewish settlements are in the national interest”. It does say that the development of Jewish settlement is viewed as a national value.

That clause of the law does not refer specifically to communities in areas which came under Israel’s control as a result of the Six Day war as – given that added ‘S’ and the use of “are” instead of “is” – listeners to the three BBC radio programmes quoted above may well have understood, particularly in light of the fact that the BBC has on countless occasions over the years promoted a highly specific definition of the term ‘settlements’.

As for the claim concerning the ‘downgrading’ of the Arabic language, as noted here previously in relation to an article on the same topic published on the BBC News website:

“…the part referring to language in fact reads as follows:

“The state’s language is Hebrew.

 The Arabic language has a special status in the state; Regulating the use of Arabic in state institutions or by them will be set in law.

 This clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.””

Some eight hours after the initial publication of that BBC News website report which originally made similar claims concerning the ‘downgrading’ of Arabic, it was amended to inform readers that the legislation “ascribes Arabic “special status” and says its standing before the law came into effect will not be harmed”. Listeners to these three radio programmes have of course seen no such clarification. 

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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

 

 

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’