BBC Radio 4 airs superficial report on Israel’s Coronavirus measures

The March 6th edition of the BBC radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included a report (from 16:48 here) which suggests that following the discovery of seven Coronavirus cases in Bethlehem on March 5th and the subsequent introduction of measures by the Palestinian Authority which included the closure of the Church of the Nativity, the BBC decided to send a reporter to that town.

Presenter Shaun Ley introduced the item. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Ley: “Now, as governments try to contain the spread of Coronavirus, some of the strictest quarantine measures anywhere in the world are in place in Israel, where 21 cases gave been reported. So far, it’s closed its borders to more than ten countries, and ordered travellers recently arrived from places like France Germany and Spain to self-isolate for fourteen days. Yesterday the first cases were confirmed in the West Bank in the town of Bethlehem. Within hours the main checkpoint from there into Israel had been shut down. The prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he’s unafraid to take harsh measures to try to contain the virus. But how stringently are they being followed and is there a wider economic impact to consider? Our Middle East correspondent Anna Foster begins her report in Bethlehem.”

Anna Foster commenced with the debatable claim that the Church of the Nativity is “the world’s oldest church” and by promoting the notion that Bethlehem – which has been under exclusive PA control for nearly a quarter of a century – is “occupied”.

Foster: “The sight of the ancient wooden door being firmly locked made headlines. The world’s oldest church where Christians believe Jesus was born, forced to close its doors as Coronavirus reached the occupied territories. I watched as the final visitors scrambled to touch the metal star that marks the spot. Hand after hand rubbing it without any soap and water in sight.”

Foster spoke to some German tourists who did not seem to be paying particular attention to instructions concerning self-isolation before going on:

Foster: “In Israel tens of thousands of locals and tourists are now in self-quarantine. But if you’re on holiday and not following the Hebrew media, how do you find out if you’re affected and what you should be doing?”

Listeners were not told that there are numerous non-Hebrew media outlets in Israel reporting daily on that topic or that both the Ministry of Health and the ambulance service provide information and help lines in English and other languages. Instead, Foster asked a worker at a hotel in Jerusalem:

Foster: “Should you be trying to tell them more though, because the government would want you to pass that information on for them, wouldn’t they?”

Moving on to the Old City in Jerusalem, Foster noted the reduction in the number of tourists.

Foster: “Israel is proud of its proactive approach to containing Coronavirus but shop owners like Mohammed can already see the impact of keeping tourists away.”

When her interviewee complained that business was already in decline because of “the situations between the Israel and the Palestinians” Foster did not explain to listeners the effects of Palestinian terrorism and violence on the tourism industry.

As we see, listeners to this superficial report did not in fact find out why the Israeli government has implemented “some of the strictest quarantine measures anywhere in the world” or what steps are being taken to help sectors impacted by the situation.

Neither did they hear anything of the co-operation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which has included the evacuation of tourists from PA controlled areas and the supply of testing kits and training.

“COGAT has been working in the past two weeks to assist the Palestinian Authority in curbing and preventing a coronavirus outbreak in Judea and Samaria and in the Gaza Strip.  Under the stewardship of Civil Administration Health Coordinator Dalia Basa, 250 coronavirus test kits have been transferred from Israel to the PA. Furthermore, joint training sessions for Israeli and Palestinian medical personnel were organized for the professional study of the virus, the protection of medical personnel, and the testing of patients suspected of being virus carriers.

In addition, COGAT has made available to the Palestinian public through its digital platform – the unit’s website and Arabic language social media pages (Al-Munassiq) – the Israeli health ministry guidelines on prevention and protection from the virus spread and ways to deal with contagion and outbreak.  The information published in Arabic is available to the entire Palestinian public in Judea and Samaria and in the Gaza Strip.”

That information would of course have been far more useful to BBC audiences trying to understand how Israel is handling the situation than interviews with a couple of random tourist industry workers in Jerusalem.  

BBC Radio 4 promotes a redundant comparison

The February 5th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’, presented by Shaun Ley, included a pre-recorded interview with David Miliband, president and CEO of the NGO the International Rescue Committee.

During that interview (from 24:42 here) Miliband spoke about the humanitarian crisis in Idlib, Syria, which is under attack from the Assad regime and its Russian allies along with Iranian militias. He noted that hospitals and health centres are being bombed and that vehicles “carrying displaced people are also being targeted”. Ley raised the topic of war crimes in relation to ambulances being targeted and Miliband referred to “international humanitarian law” and “war crimes”.

However in the course of that interview, Miliband also made the following statement (from 26:43):

Miliband: “I want to say to your listeners, we already have one Gaza in the Middle East, in Gaza itself, with about two million people crammed in. There’s a new Gaza being created in the west of Syria with three and a half million people, with terrorist groups in control and with civilian life at daily risk from bombardment and other fighting.”

One can of course find several points on which to take issue with Miliband’s simplistic, if not sensationalist, comparison of Idlib to the Gaza Strip. For example, in that province in Syria hospitals have – as the BBC knows – been deliberately bombed by Russian jets. In the Gaza Strip, not only is that not the case but hospitals receive medical supplies transferred by Israel (139 tons in the week in which this programme was aired alone) and additional products such as food and building materials are also supplied.

For the producers of ‘The World Tonight’, however, that redundant comparison was apparently the most important thing that Miliband said during his five-minute interview – as shown by the fact that it was used to promote the item in the programme’s introduction (from 00:55) along with a reference to war crimes.

Ley: “Also in the programme, the UN Security Council meets tomorrow to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Idlib, the last rebel-held province in Syria. The former foreign secretary David Miliband tells me that Western indifference has contributed to a situation in which war crimes are being committed.”

Miliband: “There’s a new Gaza being created in the west of Syria with three and a half million people, with terrorist groups in control and with civilian life at daily risk from bombardment and other fighting.”

Apparently the BBC considers that invalid and irrelevant comparison to be consistent with its supposed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.

Related Articles:

Comparing BBC reporting on strikes on hospitals in Syria and Gaza

BBC Sport wakes up to Malaysia sports discrimination story

On January 27th BBC Sport reported on a development in a story it had previously ignored for over two weeks. As well as appearing on the BBC Sport website, the article titled “World Para Swimming Championships: Malaysia stripped of hosting 2019 event” was also published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ and ‘Asia’ pages.

“Malaysia has been stripped of hosting the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships for refusing to let Israelis compete, says the International Paralympic Committee. […]

“When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new championships host,” said International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Andrew Parsons.

“All World Championships must be open to all eligible athletes and nations to compete safely and free from discrimination.””

BBC Sport reported the background to the story thus:

“Malaysia, which is a majority Muslim country, banned the athletes because of what Kuala Lumpur sees as Israel’s poor treatment of Palestinians.

The Israeli foreign ministry condemned the decision and accused Malaysia of anti-Semitism.”

The foreign ministry’s statement actually referred to the antisemitism of Malaysia’s prime minister rather than the country as a whole:

“This is shameful and totally opposes the Olympic spirit. Israel condemns the decision, inspired no doubt by Malaysia’s PM Mahathir [Mohamad]’s rabid anti-Semitism,” the ministry said in a statement. “We call upon the International Paralympic Committee to change this wrong decision or change the venue of the event.”

The BBC Sport report continued:

“Mahathir Mohamad – who gave an interview to the BBC’s HARDtalk programme in October – became the country’s new prime minister last May and has been criticised for holding anti-Semitic views.

Syed Saddiq, Malaysia’s minister of youth and sports, has defended his country’s decision.

He told the BBC last week that Malaysia would have “lost our moral conscience and moral compass” if hosting an international sporting event was “more important than safeguarding the interest of our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are being mutilated [sic] time after time again”.”

A clip from that ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Syed Saddiq was embedded at the top of the BBC Sport report. The same clip had been promoted separately on the BBC News website four days earlier.

“Malaysia’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Syed Saddiq, has defended his country’s decision to ban Israeli Paralympic swimmers from participating in the World Para Swimming Championships, due to be held in Malaysia in July.

He told BBC Hardtalk’s Shaun Ley: “If hosting an international event is more important than safeguarding the interest of our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are being mutilated time after time again, if that is more important it means we have lost our moral conscience and moral compass.”

There has been an international outcry against Malaysia’s decision.”

In that promoted clip from the interview BBC audiences saw how Shaun Ley twice allowed Syed Saddiq to dodge the issue of the Malaysian prime minister’s use of Nazi analogy and antisemitic stereotypes and not only failed to challenge his guest’s distorted and context-free portrayals of Israeli actions but actually endorsed them.

Saddiq: “During [operations] Cast Lead, Protective Edge, Pillar of Defence tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians had their lives murdered, families taken away and continuing sanctions.”

Ley: “And plenty of countries condemn that and take action against it but they don’t stand against the opportunity for people of all communities, countries, to come together.”

Moreover, at the end of that interview, BBC audiences heard that Malaysia – a country which reelected a prime minister infamous for his antisemitism and which bans Israelis for no other reason that their nationality – is “progressive”.    

Related Articles:

BBC Sport ignores anti-Israel bigotry yet again

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

In part one of this post we looked at the BBC News website’s coverage of the session held at the UN General Assembly on December 21st. In part two we discussed BBC World Service radio’s reporting of that story and in this post we will look at coverage of the same topic on BBC Radio 4, beginning with a programme aired before the vote took place. 

1) ‘PM‘, BBC Radio 4, 21/12/17, presented by Eddie Mair, from 05:22 here.

Mair: “During the campaign that got him elected president, Donald Trump said he wanted to stop sending aid to ‘countries that hate us’. Now he seems close to putting that idea into practice. The catalyst was his announcement that the US would relocate its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Today the General Assembly of the United Nations will vote on a resolution that expresses great regret about the decision and urges other countries not to follow America’s decision to relocate. In advance of the debate the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, warned that the US would take note of countries which voted against America.”

Mair then quoted statements made by Haley and listeners heard a recording of the US president speaking on the same topic before a rather confused Nada Tawfik was brought in to report from the UN.

Tawfik: “This has been a week of high stakes diplomacy on the issue of Jerusalem. It began on Monday when the United States vetoed a draft Security Council resolution that essentially called on President Trump to reverse his decision and to…reverse his decision to move the capital of Israel…ah…to recognise Israel as the…Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, to move the American embassy there. Arab and Muslim countries immediately requested an emergency session of the General Assembly to protest the veto and to put forward another resolution for all 103 [sic – 193] members of the General Assembly to vote on. President Trump and Ambassador Haley have tried to use American muscle rather than diplomacy to convince countries to vote their way.”

Tawfik also told listeners that:

“Here [at the UN], diplomats say […] that it’s clear that the US decision goes against international law and therefore countries should stand up at the UN General Assembly.”

Which countries those unidentified quoted diplomats represent was not revealed by Tawfik but nevertheless, she chose to unquestioningly promote the inaccurate notion that the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “goes against international law”.

In the same item listeners heard the recordings of the statements made by Nikki Haley and the Turkish foreign minister previously aired on BBC World Service programmes as well as a recording of Israel’s ambassador speaking at the UN GA. The item also included an interview with “an expert on international aid” – Cindy Wang – described as having worked at the US State Department under the previous US administration.

Radio 4 also covered the story after the UN GA vote had taken place.

2) ‘The World Tonight’, BBC Radio 4, 21/12/17, presented by Shaun Ley, from 07:30 here.

Ley: “For Christians, Jews and Muslims alike it is a city of deep religious significance. Richard the Lionheart – England’s crusader king – dreamt of liberating Jerusalem during the Crusade but died without achieving his ambition. Palestinians maintain that East Jerusalem should be the capital of the State of Palestine, if such a state ever comes into existence. Israel – the Jewish state – has proclaimed that Jerusalem is its capital: a status not recognised by most of the nations of the world. So this result – today’s vote by the General Assembly of the United Nations – will have come as no surprise to the White House.”

Listeners heard the previously used recording of part of statements made by the US ambassador to the UN followed by the recording of remarks from the Turkish foreign minister also previously aired on other programmes which was introduced by Ley as follows:

Ley: “Turkey, traditionally a US ally, was one of the prime movers behind today’s motion. The Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu hit out against threats from President Trump to punish countries that support the resolution.”

In addition, listeners heard the first segment of the interview with the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the UN broadcast on ‘Newshour’ on the BBC World Service.

Ley then introduced his first guest.

Ley: “Well this evening Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has Tweeted that as a result of the overwhelming vote he expects President Trump to rescind what he called his unfortunate decision. Gulnur Aybet is professor of international relations at Yildiz Technical University – a senior advisor to the [Turkish] president. […] Your president says he expects it to be rescinded but in the end, today’s vote was a symbolic one: the motion has no authority to cause the Americans to change their policy. All it seems to do is sour relations with the US but actually change nothing.”

Aybet: “Well actually I mean the General Assembly vote is non-binding but at the same time, when you look at this it’s an overwhelming majority of various states from very different backgrounds. So you’ve got the entire Muslim states of the UN there. You’ve got the major economies of the world there and all the other permanent members of the UN Security Council. Now it’s really the first time that such a diverse range of states – and some very powerful ones – have actually taken a decision in an international institution against the United States in such an overwhelming way. I think it’s more than symbolic in the way that it challenges the US’ presence on the world arena.”

In response to Ley’s assertion that the UNGA vote “is endorsing a position the UN has had for 70 years” and that the motion will “simply add to the conflict”, Aybet responded as follows:

Aybet: “No, but what the American decision, taken by the Trump administration, is actually a violation of international law. And you mentioned that, you know, this is the status quo that’s happened and the United Nations in various resolutions – Security Council – has called these lands, including East Jerusalem, as occupied territories and required a respect for the special status of Jerusalem. So on one side there’s the international law which, you know, is there – you can’t deny that – and the United States has actually broken with that by making this decision – and which is why there is such an overwhelming response to it – but it’s also pitted the entire Muslim world against it and President Erdogan said this was an absolute red line and that’s precisely why Turkey as the chair of the OIC – the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation…”

Ley: [interrupts] “Pushed very hard to get this motion….”

Aybet: “Well they actually, Turkey…”

Ley: “Lobbied for it, encouraged it.”

Aybet: “…convened an emergency summit of the OIC. And it was the resolution that came out of that summit that laid the basis for this resolution.”

In response to Ley pointing out that both the US president and the US ambassador to the UN had clarified that the US announcement “does not preclude anything that might come out of peace talks”, the Turkish president’s advisor once again made inaccurate – but unchallenged – claims concerning the US announcement and international law.

Aybet:”How can you have a peace process when this decision violates international law on which the peace process is based and the two-state solution which is what the two…what the peace process is all about and the entire [sic] international community which have voted against this decision respects? And how can you have a peace process when you’ve pitted the entire Muslim world against this decision as well, you know?”

While Ley made no attempt to relieve listeners of the erroneous impression promoted by Aybet according to which the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital breaches international law, he did allow her the time to praise her employer’s “leadership […] that will not be forgotten”.

Ley’s second interviewee on the topic was retired US general and former vice Chief of Staff Jack Keane. During that conversation, Ley referred to Nikki Haley’s statement at the UN GA as “kind of almost cash for votes” and “tawdry”.

Like BBC World Service radio, Radio 4 focused extensively on what it chose to portray as “threats” made by the US Administration prior to the UN GA vote and failed to provide audiences with relevant context and historical background to the story. However, as we see, listeners to BBC Radio 4 also heard inaccurate claims concerning ‘international law’ and the US announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in both these programmes.

All the relevant UN Security Council resolutions are non-binding (Chapter VI) and do not create any legal obligations. Neither do they relate to announcements concerning Jerusalem.  

Clearly BBC Radio 4 listeners were materially misled on this issue and corrections are in order.

Related Articles:

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

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

How did BBC radio frame the US announcement on Jerusalem?

 

BBC Radio 4 amplifies PLO interpretation of the two-state solution

The February 15th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ included an item (from 19:53 here) relating to that day’s meeting between the US president and the Israeli prime minister in Washington.twt-15-2

In that item, presented by Shaun Ley, listeners heard yet another baseless claim of a shift in US policy along with the inaccurate suggestion that the two-state solution formed part of the Oslo Accords. [emphasis added]

Ley: “Now for a quarter of a century a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been the default position of diplomats and politicians alike. It would mean an independent Palestine set up alongside Israel. Tonight at a White House news conference with Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Trump appeared to tear up what has been the US foreign policy objective under his three most recent predecessors – Democrat and Republican alike.”

Listeners then heard a recording of the US president speaking at that press conference which was apparently intended to support Ley’s claim that Trump had changed US foreign policy.

Trump: “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians…if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

Ley continued with what has become a standard BBC theme: promotion of ‘settlements’ as the main obstacle to an agreement, with numerous no less relevant factors such as the Hamas-Fatah split, Hamas’ rejection of the two-state solution or the PA’s refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state obscured from audience view.

“Mr Netanyahu certainly received a much warmer welcome here than he had when President Obama was in the White House and he appeared to be enjoying the experience. There was an awkward moment though when, having talked about the need for compromise, the president raised the thorny issue of Israeli settlements: a longstanding obstacle to any deal.”

Another recording from the press conference was then heard.

Trump: “As far as settlements; I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. I would like to see a deal being made. I think a deal will be made. I know that every president would like to. Most of them have not started till late because they never thought it was possible. And it wasn’t possible because they didn’t do it. And I think we’re going to make a deal. It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand.”

Netanyahu: “Let’s try it.”

Trump: “Doesn’t sound too optimistic…good negotiator.”

Netanyahu: “That’s the art of the deal.”

Ley then inaccurately told listeners that Netanyahu’s reply “Let’s try it” related to the topic of settlements rather than to a deal.

Ley: “Well you may just have heard, just before the end of that clip was Mr Netanyahu apparently replying to the challenge over settlements with the words ‘let’s try it’. But on the question of two states or one the Israeli prime minister said too much time over the years had been devoted to labels rather than substance.”

Netanyahu: “So here’s the substance: there are two prerequisites for peace that I laid out several years ago and they haven’t changed. First, the Palestinians must recognise the Jewish state. Second, in any peace agreement Israel must retain the over-riding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan river because if we don’t, we know what will happen.”

Ley: “This evening the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Donald Trump’s call on Israel to pull back on settlement building and pledged to work with the Americans. Manuel Hassassian leads the Palestinian mission in the UK. He believes President Trump made a terrible mistake.”

Listeners then heard Manuel Hassassian again promote the inaccurate notion that the two-state solution was included in the Oslo Accords. They also heard him make the false claims – completely unchallenged by Shaun Ley – that the 1949 Armistice lines are “borders” and that the definition of the two-state solution is that a Palestinian state would be established on all of the land occupied by Jordan and Egypt in 1948.

Hassassian: “For the last 24 years when we embarked on the peace process, everybody agreed that the two-state solution would be the solution that will end the conflict and end the occupation – meaning that the Palestinian will have a state on the borders of 1967 as a result of the Security Council resolutions 234 and 388. There is a international consensus. International community talking all the time about a two-state solution.”

Seeing as UNSC resolution 388 relates to Rhodesia, Hassassian may have intended to say 338. However, neither UN Security Council resolution 234 nor 338 make any reference to a Palestinian state but Ley failed to challenge Hassassian on that too, continuing:

Ley: “But that consensus has achieved over 25 years next to nothing. Isn’t there an argument that actually on the ground people have long since given up on the idea of a two-state solution because they haven’t seen it…it’s been a convenient parking space for talking. It’s been a way of saying ‘oh look: we have something that we’re aiming for but then we don’t actually have to do anything about it’. Isn’t at least the consequence of this to throw all the pieces up into the air and force people to start talking for real?”

Hassassian: “Yes, the two-state solution and the peace process for the last 24 years have brought nothing except pain and humiliation and suffering for the Palestinian people. We have not seen any breakthrough in this peace process because I think the United States, personally, was not an honest broker of peace and they never really put any pressures on the Israelis to halt settlements. And settlements now are the major impediment to any kind of agreement and a lasting solution.”

Ley’s failure to challenge Manuel Hassassian on the claim that “settlements now are the major impediment” to an agreement is of course unsurprising since he too had made that same claim just minutes earlier, showing the extent to which the BBC has adopted the PLO’s talking points. Similarly failing to ask Hassassian why the PA initiated the second Intifada in 2000, why the PA refuses to recognise Israel as the Jewish state or what the PLO intends to do about Hamas’ refusal to accept the two-state solution, he continued.

Ley: “I mean President Trump did challenge the prime minister on this. He said can you…can you hold off on the settlements for a little bit.”

Hassassian: “Well basically he said it’s a problem but he did not really challenge Netanyahu to stop settlements. Since Clinton administration the US position has always been a two-state solution known [knowing] that the borders will be the 1967 borders.”

Clinton peace plan

Clinton peace plan

That claim too is of course false: the Clinton parameters (which were rejected by the Palestinians) clearly included land swaps and did not advocate a two-state solution based on mythical ‘1967 borders’. Hassassian went on:

“Now this is a dramatic shift in Trump’s policy to look at the peace process as something between two partners that can work out a solution with the blessings of the United States, short of a Palestinian state and more appeasing basic to Netanyahu. And the idea of Trump moving the embassy of the United States to Jerusalem is against international law…”

Ley: “Which he repeated again today. He repeated again today he is considering doing that or looking very seriously at it.”

Hassassian: “If he does that he is just ruining the entire peace process. He is defying the international law and he knows very well that moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a breach to all kinds of agreements; to all UN Security Council, believing that Jerusalem is the united capital – the eternal capital – of the State of Israel. That will dramatically shift the entire game and the entire negotiations and the entire peace process. If he does that, this is a recipe for another intifada or a reaction and he is going to lose partners from the European Union that have adamantly supported the two-state solution when East Jerusalem is considered to be an occupied city. If he does that then there is no role for the United States as a gavel holder or as a shepherd to this entire peace process. He is opening a Pandora’s box of conflicts with the Europeans, with the Islamic world, with the Arab world, with the international community, defying UN Security Council resolutions and where does that leave us?”

Apparently uninterested in Hassassian’s unveiled threats of violence and failing to clarify to listeners that the Quartet – which includes the EU – calls for “a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem”, Ley closed the interview there.

The BBC’s remit includes the priority of enhancing “UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”. Obviously the inaccurate and misleading claims made by the presenter together with his complete failure to challenge the falsehoods and propaganda promoted by his interviewee did nothing to contribute to meeting that objective.

BBC partially corrects ‘The World Tonight’ inaccuracies

As documented here last month, the December 28th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included a number of inaccuracies. [all emphasis added]twt-28-12

“[BBC presenter] Ley told listeners that:

“Last week President Obama authorised a change of tactics towards Israel. The US opted not to deploy its veto on a Security Council resolution condemning building by Jewish settlers on what had been Palestinian land until the Six Day War.” […] 

Ley continued:

“It was a war which lasted less than a week yet the territory seized by Israel then is still de facto controlled by Tel Aviv today.”

Referring to “Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia”, he later told listeners that:

“They also share Tel Aviv’s anxiety about the growing importance of Iran in the region.” […]

Ley also told audiences that:

“The attitude of Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia has become more ambiguous since they fought with Israel in 1967. Whilst continuing to make the case for a separate Palestinian state, most now accept the existence of the Jewish state.””

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning those inaccuracies and the response received includes the following:reply-twt-complaint

That correction reads as follows:

correction-twt

BBC Watch will be pursuing the outstanding issues.

 

Shaun Ley’s multiple Middle East mangles on BBC Radio 4

An item in the December 28th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ related to the speech given by the outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry on the same day. Throughout that item (from 07:59 here), host Shaun Ley promoted several inaccuracies. [all emphasis in bold added]twt-28-12

Ley told listeners that:

“Last week President Obama authorised a change of tactics towards Israel. The US opted not to deploy its veto on a Security Council resolution condemning building by Jewish settlers on what had been Palestinian land until the Six Day War.”

Prior to the Six Day War Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem came under Jordanian occupation following that country’s attack on the newly declared Israeli state in 1948. That occupation was not recognised by the international community. Before the Jordanian invasion, the same areas were administered by Britain under the terms of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. Prior to British conquest during the First World War, the areas were controlled by the Ottoman Empire for some 500 years. Nevertheless, Ley promoted the totally inaccurate claim that Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem were “Palestinian land” until 1967.

Ley continued:

“It was a war which lasted less than a week yet the territory seized by Israel then is still de facto controlled by Tel Aviv today.”

Referring to “Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia”, he later told listeners that:

“They also share Tel Aviv’s anxiety about the growing importance of Iran in the region.”

As pointed out by our colleagues at CAMERA in relation to a correction secured from AP (and additional outlets) on the same issue earlier this month:

“This is a case of an error in the journalistic practice of naming a nation’s capital as shorthand for the country’s government. For instance, “Washington” is shorthand for the U.S. government because it is the capital. […]

But Israel’s capital is Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv. The Prime Minister’s bureau is located in Jerusalem, next to the Foreign Ministry, the Bank of Israel, and across the street from the Supreme Court and the Knesset. While Israel’s Ministry of Defense is in Tel Aviv, the U.S. Department of Defense is in Arlington County, Virginia and yet the AP does not refer to “Arlington County” selling F-35s to Israel, for instance.”

As we know, the BBC presumptuously refuses to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but nevertheless, Ley’s choice of wording leads listeners to believe that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital – which is clearly inaccurate.

Ley also told audiences that:

“The attitude of Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia has become more ambiguous since they fought with Israel in 1967. Whilst continuing to make the case for a separate Palestinian state, most now accept the existence of the Jewish state.”

The Gulf Arab states are Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. None of those countries recognises or has diplomatic relations with Israel and all but one forbid entry to Israeli passport holders, meaning that Ley’s claim that “most” Gulf states “accept the existence of the Jewish state” is unsubstantiated. With the exception of Iraq and some minor air support from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, his claim that the Gulf Arab states “fought with Israel in 1967” is also misleading.

Later on, Ley managed to introduce an apartheid analogy into his commentary while implying the existence of some mysterious additional unpopulated “occupied territories”.

“If the occupied territories, as they’re called, including the populated ones – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – were formally absorbed into a single Israeli state, Mr Kerry suggested people would be separate and unequal – a phrase bound to anger many Israelis because of the implication that this is something similar to the racial segregation once practiced in South Africa and the United States. Israel insists that it treats all its citizens equally…”

Subsequently listeners heard an interview with the PA’s Husam Zomlot in which a reference to Israeli “tanks that is [sic] besieging entire communities” went unchallenged by Shaun Ley.

Part of the BBC’s public purpose remit is to “[e]nhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” in its domestic content – which includes Radio 4. Shaun Ley’s commentary is so ridden with inaccuracy and incompetency that it clearly does not meet that remit.

BBC R4 reveals what ‘really’ threatens to reignite Hamas-Israel conflict

On June 9th – the day after the terror attack at Sarona Market in which four people were murdered and 17 wounded – BBC Radio 4’s programme ‘The World Tonight’ broadcast an item apparently intended to convey to audiences that any future outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas would be down to one prime factor.

As readers may be able to guess, that factor was not terrorism: the word did not appear even once throughout the report. Presenter Shaun Ley set the scene (from 18:13 here):R4 the world tonight 9 6

“Now, Israel’s newly appointed defence minister Avdor [sic] Lieberman has issued an order preventing the return of the bodies of any Palestinians who are killed in attacks there. The gunmen who shot dead four people and injured six [sic] others at a shopping centre in Tel Aviv last night were captured alive but this is a signal by Mr Lieberman – a political hardliner. In addition, permits for 83,000 Palestinians who were planning to come to Israel have been revoked and more troops are to be deployed in the occupied West Bank. Our reporter Andrew Hosken reports now from Jerusalem.”

Ley did not inform listeners that Lieberman’s order constitutes a return to previous policy or that the entry permits for Palestinians were frozen rather than “revoked”.

Hosken began his report with a description of Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, going on to say:

“But in recent months Damascus Gate has also been the scene of a string of knife attacks, mainly by young Palestinians of both sexes, on Jewish Israeli policemen and women.”

Over a dozen attacks have taken place at Damascus Gate since October of last year. Contrary to the claims from Hosken, the attacks were not directed exclusively at members of the security forces and many Israeli police and border police officers are not Jewish. At least four civilians were wounded in attacks at that location. Neither were all the attacks at Damascus Gate “knife attacks” as inaccurately claimed: at least five shooting attacks took place, including the one on February 3rd in which Border Police officer Hadar Cohen was murdered.

Hosken continued:

“The attacks here have earned this wave of assault that began last October the not terribly subtle title ‘the Intifada of knives’. But the latest assault involved machine guns and at the heart of Jewish Israel – Tel Aviv – some fifty miles or so west of Jerusalem. The Israeli government, led by the Right-wing Likud party, has promised a severe reaction against any Palestinian entity – individuals, organisations, even families – it considers culpable.”

Listeners then heard some general statements from MK Dr Anat Berko before Hosken went on:

“Raids were conducted today by Israeli security forces in Yatta – a small town which is home to at least two of the attackers. It’s in the Palestinian West Bank area where so many Israeli Jews have created settlements in defiance of a number of United Nations resolutions.”

There were two terrorists involved in the Sarona Market attack and both came from Yatta which is in Area A and under full Palestinian Authority control. There are of course no ‘settlements’ in Areas A or B.

Hosken next went to Kibbutz Alumim in the Western Negev.

“Jeremy Maisel [phonetic] lives on the Alumim kibbutz in south-west Israel just two and a half miles from the Gaza Strip – home to 2 million Palestinians.”

As of July 2015 the population of the Gaza Strip was 1.87 million.

“In the summer of 2014 during the conflict between Israel and Hamas – the Islamist organization that controls Gaza – the Alumim kibbutz came under rocket attack. No fewer than 282 code red alerts were issued to the people here, giving them 15 seconds to get to a bomb shelter. Jeremy Maisel remains pessimistic about any prospects of peace with the Palestinians.”

Maisel: “Hamas is a very extremist government there and they don’t hide their goals of destroying Israel, of killing Jews.”

Hosken continued:

“Most of the leaders of Hamas are based in Gaza and as far as the Israeli government is concerned, Hamas – which has often vowed to destroy Israel in the past – remains suspect number one when it comes to the attack in Tel Aviv.”

The Hamas movement in Yatta claimed that the two terrorists belonged to its organization soon after the attack.

Hosken then journeyed to Gaza.

“I’ve just crossed over from Israel into Gaza and the dysfunctionality of the place is clear on entry because after passing through Israeli passport control you have to negotiate two checkpoints on the Palestinians’ side operated by separate and differing organisations that have fought bitterly in the past for control of the Strip. The first is operated by Fatah and the second manned by Hamas.”

The checkpoint is actually Palestinian Authority – rather than “Fatah” – operated. Hosken then gave an inaccurate account of how the Gaza Strip came under Hamas control, completely erasing the terror organisation’s violent June 2007 coup from audience view.

“Hamas has controlled Gaza since winning elections here in 2006. Fatah controls the Palestinian Authority which holds sway on the West Bank – home to two of the Tel Aviv attackers.”

Listeners heard entirely unchallenged statements from three interviewees in Gaza, the first being “a prominent Fatah leader” whom Hosken asked about “the so-called Intifada of knives”.

“It is a reaction more than Intifada. It is a reaction from the people. The humiliation they face on the borders and cross points of the Israelis. They are using a very, very bad way in dealing with the Palestinians. They keep them for long time on the cross points, on the entrances and they don’t allow them to go to Jerusalem. They touch the feelings of the people so it is not an organized act. It is just a reactionary act.”

Hosken did not bother to clarify to listeners that Palestinians can in fact travel to Jerusalem with the appropriate paper work or that the security measures at crossings into Israel are the direct result of Palestinian terrorism.

Listeners also heard from a similarly unchallenged porter whom Hosken asked “what he thought about the attack in Tel Aviv”.

“I feel happy because they have taken Jerusalem, they have taken our land and it’s right to defend ourself. The operation is a natural because they took our land and look what they are doing in Gaza: they cut the electricity, they close the border.”

Hosken did not explain to listeners that the electricity cuts in the Gaza Strip have nothing at all to do with Israel and are the result of a dispute between Hamas and the PA. He went on:

“…but could there be another war soon? Even before Tel Aviv there was concern at the appointment as Israeli defence minister of Avigdor Lieberman – a hawk when it comes to the Palestinians and a man who has supported the assassination of Hamas leaders in the past.”

Listeners then heard from an associate professor of politics at Gaza’s Al Azhar University.

“The Palestinian elite in Gaza are a little bit concerned that maybe the bringing of Lieberman as defence minister might mean another war is in the making between Israel and Hamas within the next six months or a year. Lieberman in the past year or so since the Israeli elections have asked Netanyahu to reoccupy the Gaza Strip and have pushed Netanyahu to assassinate the political leadership of Hamas in the Gaza Strip so it could mean military activity against Hamas and the Palestinians in the Gaza strip in the foreseeable future.”

Hosken then closed with the following trite statement:

“Tonight for many people here, recent attempts by both France and Egypt to broker peace talks have never felt more forlorn.”

Hamas – along with several other Palestinian factions – clearly has no interest in peace talks, as one presumes Hosken himself knows, and has spent the last two years rebuilding its terrorist infrastructure. Nevertheless, listeners to this item were led to believe that the main factor threatening to lead to a renewal of conflict is the recent appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as Minister of Defence rather than Palestinian terrorism. Apparently that is what passes for ‘reporting’ at BBC Radio 4.