Weekend long read

1) With the BBC World Service having recently failed to disclose the anti-Israel activism of the sole interviewee in a history show, an article by Prof Gerald Steinberg titled “The Lancet: How an Anti-Israel Propaganda Platform was Turned Around” makes for timely reading.

“The Lancet‘s central role in anti-Israel demonization began in parallel to the wider political war launched in late 2000, at a time of violent clashes between Palestinians and Israelis.  […]

It was during this period that The Lancet began publishing numerous articles advancing this poisonous political agenda, through allegations of medical and health related abuse of Palestinians. This activity took place under the aegis of Richard Horton, who has held the position of Editor in Chief since 1995 and who frequently generates controversy by using the journal to gain visibility for his pronouncements on major social and political issues associated with progressive liberal agendas. In this context, Horton joined the Palestinian cause, reinforced through close association with highly politicized non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHR-I). Under Horton’s direction, The Lancet and MAP co-sponsored The Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance (LPHA), generating a steady flow of pseudo-scientific papers, and, in turn, providing Horton with political support and visibility. […]

Dr. Swee Ang Chai, co-founder of MAP, was another central figure in The Lancet campaign and a frequent contributor to anti-Israel demonization, and the introduction from her book From Beirut to Jerusalem was posted on The Lancet’s “Global Health Network” website. The article, which included no citations and advanced no medical claims, was removed 28 days later following widespread criticism of “factual inaccuracies.” Another piece by Swee Ang cited testimonies of unnamed “eyewitnesses” to make war crimes allegations related to the 2009 Gaza conflict. In addition, she participated in an internet group that promoted David Duke’s racism and anti-Semitism, including promoting a video titled “CNN, Goldman Sachs, and the Zio Matrix” in which Duke accuses Jewish banking, media and political figures of conspiring to create “an unholy tribal alliance.””

2) The ITIC has translated an interview given to a Hamas newspaper by UK-based anti-Israel activist Zaher Birawi.

“Birawi added that despite the difficulties, the main objective of dispatching ships to the Gaza Strip is for their propaganda value, to keep the issues of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and breaking the “siege” alive in public discourse, and to continue to defame Israel (the “occupying entity,” according to Birawi). He claimed that the true test of the success of the flotillas is not whether or not they reach the Gaza Strip, but the coverage of the political and media campaigns accompanying them.

Asked whether ships would sail to the Gaza Strip in the near future, he answered it had been decided in principle to continue to try to break the “siege” by sea. He said the Freedom flotilla coalition was examining a plan to send one or more ships during the summer of 2018. They were currently discussing details and how to ensure success. He also said other NGOs, working in solidarity for the Palestinians, that participated in the Freedom flotilla coalition, were also examining the possibility of sending their own ships.”

3) Readers may recall that in 2015 the BBC rejected a complaint from a member of the public based on information – inter alia – from the group ‘Kairos’. At the Boston Globe, Robert Leikind has more on that organisation.

“Over the last decade, a number of mainline Protestant Churches, including some with a significant presence in New England, have adopted resolutions harshly critical of Israel. During the summer two more were passed by the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ. These measures share three core elements: Each assigns Israel near total culpability for the conflict with the Palestinians; each overlooks decades of Palestinian activity that has undermined prospects for peace with Israel; and each justifies its claims by referring to a document called Kairos Palestine.”

4) The FDD has published a detailed paper on the subject of Hizballah’s finances.

“Hezbollah – a Shiite terrorist group based in Lebanon – is under financial strain, but is likely to stay buoyed by external support from Iran and by its vast network of illicit businesses around the world. The group makes roughly a billion dollars annually through support from Iran (which provides the bulk of its funding), donations from elements within the Lebanese diaspora, and smuggling and drug trafficking networks worldwide. Several countries in South America give the group’s trafficking networks safe harbor. Hezbollah leverages segments of the Lebanese diaspora for donations and “taxation,” and supporters have laundered money and run front companies on six continents. Hezbollah predominantly spends its revenues on providing social services in southern Lebanon, operating as a “state within a state,” and on funding its fighting forces in Lebanon and Syria.” 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC WS history programme fails to disclose interviewee’s anti-Israel activism

The September 15th edition of the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness’ was titled “Sabra and Shatila – A Massacre in Lebanon“.

“A doctor working in Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon recalls the massacre there in September 1982. Over the course of three days, Lebanese Christian militiamen killed and raped hundreds of the Palestinian inhabitants of Sabra and Shatila in Beirut in revenge for the assassination of their leader, Lebanese president elect, Bashir Gemayel. Dr Swee Ang treated the wounded in the basement of the only hospital in the camp; she tells Louise Hidalgo her story.”

The interviewee’s background is described to listeners by Hidalgo as follows:

“Dr Swee Ang was working in the hospital in Sabra and Shatila during those days.”

And:

“Dr Swee Ang is an orthopedic surgeon originally from Singapore who moved to Britain in 1977.”

A significant proportion of the programme relates to Israel rather than to the Lebanese Christian militia that actually carried out the massacre in Sabra and Shatila with Hidalgo referring to the findings of the Kahan Commission and providing some rather sketchy background to the first Lebanon War and her interviewee adding other statements.

“I grew up a very staunch fundamentalist Christian and I’ve always been supporting Israel. In 1982 […] I saw on television aerial bombardment of Beirut in Lebanon and I just couldn’t square it with my religious upbringing…”

“My understanding of the situation – because I was brought up with a lot of friends who are pro-Israel – was that the PLO was the cause of all the trouble.”

“Tanks were coming northwards into Beirut city and a contingent came for Sabra and Shatila. So by nightfall the shelling became so close and we knew that we were surrounded by Israeli tanks.”

At the end of the programme listeners are told that:

“After Sabra and Shatila she and her husband set up a medical charity for the people of the camp.”

That charity is called ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ (MAP) and – far from being a neutral “medical” charity – its politicised anti-Israel bias is notorious.  Dr Swee Ang herself is frequently seen at anti-Israel events such as ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ and in 2014 she co-authored a highly politicised open letter promoting unsubstantiated allegations and accusing Israel of ‘massacring’ Palestinians that was published in the Lancet.

None of that information was made available to listeners to this programme despite the fact that BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

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

Given the programme’s focus on Israel, full disclosure of its sole interviewee’s political activism in line with BBC editorial guidelines was obviously necessary.