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

On May 18th listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard the fourth part in Jeremy Bowen’s series of programmes ‘Our Man in the Middle East’.

Titled ‘Jerusalem’, the programme is both rambling and predictable, with Bowen’s portrayal of the city focusing on blood, violence, religion, power and nationalism at the expense of any mention of its diversity and eclectic coexistence.

From his opening sentences onward, Bowen places the spotlight firmly and exclusively on ‘the conflict’:

“The first thing to understand about the struggle for Jerusalem is that they’re fighting over a tiny piece of land. Down there in that walled compound around the golden dome is the single most contested piece of land in the Middle East; probably the most contested piece of ground in the world.”

Following reminiscences of a poorly explained incident during the first Intifada, Bowen tells audiences that:

“The incident in Azariya was a soft introduction to the hard reality of the city of peace – which is the Hebrew translation of Jerusalem. In real life I can’t think of a city with a more blood-stained history. Tension, hatred and violence simmer alongside piety. Sometimes they’re part of it.”

Seeing as the name Jerusalem in English and other European languages derives from Latin and Greek translations of Hebrew texts, it would clearly have been more accurate for Bowen to refer to the Hebrew meaning of Jerusalem rather than “translation”.

Recalling his first trip to Jerusalem, Bowen downplays Palestinian terrorism – including international aircraft hijackings – by making a generalised and falsely equivalent reference to “violence in the Middle East”.

“When I changed planes in Zurich I saw flights to Israel had their own separate terminal [sic]. A small armoured car lumbered behind the bus to the aircraft. Violence in the Middle East had leaked into the rest of the world.”

Following archive recordings of news reports of events including the Munich Olympics massacre and the Entebbe operation, Bowen indulges himself with the claim that mere reporting from the region – rather than inaccurate or biased reporting – sparks objection.

“The tectonic plates of religion and culture come together in Jerusalem. When they move, we all feel it. Reporting the conflict between Arabs and Jews is a great way to make enemies. Many people feel connected to it even if they’ve never been to the Middle East.”

The man who once invented a new quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem goes on to provide a context-free account of “access restrictions” which again erases Palestinian terrorism and violence from the picture.

“Jerusalem is one of the most complicated issues and you can get a good idea just by walking around the walled Old City, which is what I’m going to do. I’m going in through Damascus Gate which is the main entrance for Palestinians more or less. It’s early evening so the shops are starting to close up. There’s a boy there who’s shouting out; selling bread to the Palestinians going home. There used to be more people selling things outside Damascus Gate: women who’d wear embroidered village dresses selling herbs. Now you see fewer of them these days and the reason for that is that they simply can’t get into Jerusalem and that’s because of the access restrictions that Israel has put in.”

In a section about “European imperial powers”, Bowen once again promotes his misrepresentation of the Hussein-McMahon correspondence to BBC audiences.

“In fact the British were without any humility at all, carving up the Middle East, making contradictory promises to Arabs and Jews and setting them up for conflict.”

Bowen goes on to give an inaccurate description of the Western Wall.

“So it’s dark now and the moon’s out and I’m at the place really that is the hub of it all. This is the Western Wall Plaza; the big open space going down to the…what was known for many hundreds of years as the Wailing Wall; the holiest place in the world for Jews to pray.”

The Western Wall is of course the holiest site at which Jews can currently pray but Bowen refrains from informing his listeners that Jews are not allowed to pray at the holier site of Temple Mount due to objection by the Waqf.

Delaying the start of the Muslim siege of Jerusalem by two years, Bowen tells listeners that:

“Then in 638 Arab followers of the new religion of Islam besieged the city. It was by Jerusalem’s blood-soaked standards a peaceful conquest.”

Later he recycles a visit he made to an archaeological site in 2014, telling listeners that:

“East Jerusalem was captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war and it’s claimed by the Palestinians as capital of their future state.”

No further context is provided and as was the case in his original report, audiences are not told of Jordan’s belligerent occupation of part of the city in the 19 years prior to the Six Day War or that those nineteen years were the only time that the city was divided.

Quoting writers Amos Elon (whom he calls Amos Alon), Amos Oz and Mahmoud Darwish, Bowen closes the item while reinforcing his main message:

“It’s impossible in Jerusalem to disentangle religion from power.”

In summary, Radio 4 listeners heard nothing new: the same jaded themes that Bowen has promoted over the last 25 years have simply been recycled and condensed into this latest item. Deliberately short on context, downplaying Palestinian terrorism and misrepresenting history, Bowen’s report tells BBC audiences nothing of real life in a city which is much more than just part of the much wider conflict.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bowen invents new quarter in Jerusalem

BBC Radio 4 launches a new ME series by Jeremy Bowen

BBC’s ME Editor misrepresents the Hussein-McMahon correspondence

 

When did the BBC begin avoiding the use of the word terror in Israel reporting?

BBC Watch is often asked in what year did the BBC’s policy of avoiding the use of the word terrorism when reporting on Palestinian attacks against Israelis begin.

While we do not have a definitive answer to that question, some examples from the BBC’s archived reports indicate that the language used by the corporation when reporting Palestinian terrorism has long displayed the very “value judgements” it claims to avoid.

A BBC report from September 6th 1970 relates to the Dawson’s Field hijackings by the PFLP. Titled “Hundreds held in series of hijacks“, the report opens: [all emphasis added]

“Four New York-bound airliners have been hijacked over western Europe in an unprecedented operation carried out by a militant Palestinian group.

Three of the planes taken over by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) have been flown to two different locations in the Middle East.”

Later on readers find the following:

“The PFLP have demanded the release of three Arab dissidents held in a Swiss jail in return for the 382 passengers they are holding hostage.”

Those so-called “dissidents” were in fact terrorists “serving 12 year sentences in Switzerland for attacking an Israeli airliner in Zurich in 1969”.

Later on in that article, the word “dissident” is also used to describe Leila Khaled.

“On the El Al flight a passenger pinned down an Arab female armed with a grenade who was attempting to get onto the flight deck.

Her fellow hijacker – a male armed with a hand gun – was tackled by a steward.

Several shots were fired, killing the male Arab militant and seriously wounding the crew member, but the pilot was able to make an emergency landing at Heathrow.

The captured female dissident was arrested by armed detectives at the airport and taken to a police station in west London.”

A BBC report dating from September 6th 1972 – “Olympic hostages killed in gun battle” – repeatedly describes the perpetrators of the Munich Olympics terror attack as “guerillas” despite the fact that their victims were civilians.

“All nine of the Israeli athletes kidnapped on Tuesday from the Olympic Village in Munich have been killed in a gun battle at a nearby airport.

A policeman also died in the shooting at the Furstenfeldbruck military airbase, along with four of the guerrillas from the Palestinian group Black September.

Witnesses at the airport said the shooting began when police snipers opened fire on the militants. […]

The guerrillas had previously threatened to kill all the hostages if 200 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel were not released. […]

The West German government had offered to pay any price for the release of the athletes, but was told by the guerrillas’ chief he cared for “neither money nor lives”.”

A report from September 19th 1972 – “Parcel bomb attack on Israeli embassy” – states:

“Palestinian extremist group Black September is thought to have posted the letters. Some were also sent to the Israeli embassy in Paris, sparking a worldwide security alert.”

A report on the Ma’alot massacre dated May 15th 1974  – “Teenagers die in Israeli school attack” – describes convicted terrorists, including Lod airport massacre perpetrator Kozo Okamoto, as follows:

“The Israeli government talked to the hostage-takers, via a loudhailer, and had agreed to release 26 political prisoners held in Israel.”

None of the above articles – or others dating from the 1970s – uses the words terror, terrorists or terrorism. An exception to that rule is found in an article titled “Gunmen kill 16 at two European airports” from December 27th 1985.

“At least 16 people have been killed and more than 100 injured during simultaneous twin terrorist attacks at Rome and Vienna airports.

Gunmen opened fire on passengers queuing to check-in luggage at departure desks for Israel’s national airline, El Al. […]

It comes amid reports airport authorities received warnings Arab militant groups were planning a pre-Christmas terrorist campaign at terminals across the world.”

However, as we see, the BBC’s failure to use accurate language to describe Palestinian terrorism and its perpetrators has been in evidence for nearly half a century. Is it therefore any wonder that so many contemporary British politicians who grew up watching and listening to the BBC so often get the Arab-Israeli conflict wrong?

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

A new BBC ‘explanation’ for its double standards on terror

Three stories the BBC will not tell its audiences

As has been noted in previous posts (see related articles below) concerning the BBC’s coverage of the hunger strike by convicted Palestinian terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons, while audiences have been told that the strike’s aim is to “protest detention conditions”, they have not been informed in any of the BBC’s reports what those conditions entail or exactly what the strikers are demanding.

On May 15th the strike leader Marwan Barghouti’s list of nineteen demands was published.

Also apparently among the leaders of the hunger strike are two cousins – Karim and Maher Younis – who are both serving 40 year sentences for the kidnapping and murder of Israeli soldier Avraham Bromberg in the early 1980s. Earlier this month (while Mahmoud Abbas was visiting the White House and telling the US president that the PA is “raising […] children […] on a culture of peace”) a Palestinian Authority official and the PLO announced that a main street in Jenin is to be named after Karim Younis. This week a square in the town of Tulkarem was named after the other cousin, Maher Younis.

As recently as last week BBC World Service audiences were told that Israel “has long accused Palestinian officials” of glorifying terrorism but seeing as the BBC consistently avoids reporting stories such as the naming of streets, squares, schools and sports tournaments after terrorists, its audiences are not in a position to know whether such charges are true.

Another story that BBC audiences are unlikely to be told is that of a Palestinian Legislative Council MP from Fatah (previously imprisoned for membership in a terrorist organisation) who was recently caught on camera hurling rocks during a riot.

“A Palestinian Authority lawmaker recently took part in violent clashes against Israeli security forces in the West Bank, images of which were published on Monday.

In the photos, Fatah party member Jamal Hawil can be seen using a slingshot to hurl rocks at Israeli troops during a riot at the Beit El junction amid large plumes of smoke, as well as taking cover behind makeshift barricades alongside other protesters.

Asked by Channel 2 to comment on the images, Hawil tried to downplay the significance of a PA official throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers.

“It doesn’t matter if I threw rocks or not, the entire Palestinian nation throws rocks,” he said.”

As readers may recall, on May 3rd the BBC News website inaccurately informed audiences that during Mahmoud Abbas’ visit to the White House, the US president had “stressed there would be no lasting peace unless both nations found a way to stop incitement of violence”. The BBC, however, consistently fails its audiences by refraining from providing the readily available information which would enhance their understanding of the involvement of the Palestinian Authority and its ruling party Fatah in promoting violence, incitement and glorification of terrorism.

Related Articles:

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

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

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

BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

Omissions in the BBC’s report on terrorist’s ‘hunger strike’ nosh

BBC Trending recycles a previously published BDS falsehood

BBC stays mum on convicted terrorist’s success in PA election

As regular readers know only too well, the BBC shows little interest in reporting internal Palestinian affairs – including domestic politics – to its audiences. Back in September 2016 we discussed the little reporting which did appear on the BBC News website on the topic of the fraught Palestinian Authority municipal elections which were supposed to have taken place last year.

“One might have assumed that coverage of the first election in a decade in which the rival parties Hamas and Fatah were set to take part would have been considered essential for the enhancement of BBC audience understanding of Palestinian internal affairs – especially as elections for both the Palestinian Legislative Council and the PA president have not been held during that time.

The BBC apparently thought differently and so audiences have received no insight whatsoever into the background to the municipal elections or the type of campaigning material put out by the parties involved. Neither have they been informed of stories such as Fatah’s nomination of a convicted terrorist as a candidate or the ‘concealment’ of some female candidates.”

On May 13th those long postponed municipal elections were finally held in Palestinian Authority controlled areas and Reuters reported that:

“…about 800,000 Palestinians were expected to vote for representatives in 145 local councils in the West Bank, but not in the Gaza Strip.”

However, the elections were boycotted by Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the PFLP and turnout was relatively low.

“The vote provided Palestinians a rare chance to cast ballots, after over a decade without presidential or legislative elections, and Saturday’s election was seen as a test for Abbas’ embattled and nepotism-tainted party.

The results across the West Bank indicated a weak showing by the ruling Fatah party, even though the rival Islamic Hamas terrorist movement stayed out of the race.

Electoral commission chief Hanna Nasser said 393,572 ballots were cast — “nearly 50 percent of voters.” […]

Turnout was far lower in large cities than in surrounding communities, with the lowest in Nablus, the main city in the northern West Bank, where it was less than 21%. In Nablus, Fatah won 11 of 15 seats, but only after forming an alliance with Islamist candidates.

Ramallah, the Palestinian political capital, saw turnout of less than 40%.”

In Hebron the Fatah nominated convicted terrorist mentioned above was apparently elected as mayor.

“Tayseer Abu Sneineh, the convicted murderer of six Israelis, was reportedly elected mayor of the West Bank city of Hebron on Saturday as head of the Fatah Party list.

Abu Sneineh was one of four Palestinians behind the murder of six Israeli yeshiva students in 1980.

The students, included two American citizens and a Canadian national, were part of a group that had danced from the Cave of the Patriarchs to Beit Hadassah in Hebron when Abu Sneineh and his terror cell opened fire. The six students were killed and 16 others were wounded.

The Palestinians were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison but were later released in various prisoner exchanges Israel carried out throughout the 1980s. Tayseer Abu Sneineh was released in a prisoner swap in 1983.”

Unsurprisingly, that terror attack has been glorified by Fatah in the past.

Equally unsurprisingly, the BBC – which consistently downplays or ignores Fatah and PA glorification of terrorism – has to date produced no reporting on this story.

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – April 2017

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during April 2017 shows that throughout the month a total of 118 incidents took place: eighty-nine in Judea & Samaria, twenty-six in Jerusalem, one inside the ‘green line’ and two attacks from the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula.

The agency recorded 96 attacks with petrol bombs, 10 attacks using explosive devices, three stabbings, four shooting attacks and two vehicular attacks in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem. Also recorded were one stabbing attack in Tel Aviv, one shooting attack from the Gaza Strip and one missile attack from the Sinai Peninsula.

Two people (one foreign national and one member of the security forces) were murdered in attacks during April and thirteen (8 civilians and 5 members of the security forces) were wounded.

The missile attack from Sinai on April 10th did not receive any coverage from the BBC in the English language and the shooting attack from the Gaza Strip was also not reported.

The BBC News website did report the vehicular attack near Ofra on April 6th in which Sgt Elhai Teharlev was murdered and another soldier wounded. The stabbing attack in Jerusalem on April 14th in which British exchange student Hannah Bladon was murdered and a civilian wounded also received coverage on the BBC News website. In both cases the word terror was absent from the BBC’s reporting.  

Among the incidents resulting in injuries which did not receive any BBC coverage were a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on April 1st, a vehicular attack at Gush Etzion junction on April 19th, a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv on April 23rd and a stabbing attack at the Qalandiya crossing on April 24th.

In all, the BBC News website reported two (1.7%) of the 118 terror attacks that occurred during April. Since the beginning of the year the corporation has reported 0.68% of the total attacks that have taken place and coverage of missile attacks stands at zero. 

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2017

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – February 2017

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – March 2017

 

BBC Trending recycles a previously published BDS falsehood

On May 10th an article credited to Lamia Estatie appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page and on the BBC Trending blog. At the bottom of the article readers are told that it was produced “By the UGC [user-generated content – Ed.] and Social News team; Additional reporting by BBC Monitoring in Cairo”.

Titled “Arabs call for Pizza Hut boycott after prisoner ad“, the article relates to a story that emerged on the same day.

“Arabs on social are calling for a boycott of the popular pizza chain and franchise after one of its Israel branches posted a Facebook advert said to “mock” Palestinian hunger strikers.

Pizza Hut has apologised for the now deleted post, saying it was “completely inappropriate and does not reflect the values of our brand” and added that “the relationship with the agency that posted it was terminated”.

Israeli prison authorities had earlier released an [sic] video of Marwan Barghouti – who is leading a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons – allegedly secretly eating cookies. Mr Barghouti’s wife has said the prison service footage was “fake”.

But Pizza Hut used a screen grab of the video with a Photoshopped pizza box in the cell. The post in Hebrew read: “Barghouti, if you are going to break your strike, isn’t pizza the better choice?””

Nowhere throughout the entire article are BBC audiences informed that Marwan Barghouti is serving five life sentences for his role in lethal terror attacks and neither are they told that additional “Palestinian hunger strikers” are also serving time for acts of terror. As in previous BBC reports concerning the ‘hunger strike’ (see ‘related articles’ below), audiences are not told what the “jail conditions” that the prisoners are supposedly protesting actually are or what they are demanding. Neither are readers given any insight into the political background of the strike.

“Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners have been refusing food since 17 April to protest against Israeli jail conditions, relying on an intake of saltwater.” 

“Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour has said that more than 6,500 Palestinians are imprisoned or arbitrarily detained by Israel.”

Another noteworthy aspect of this article comes in the following paragraph:

“The BDS – or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – is a self-described human rights organisations [sic] which supports a boycott of Israel as a form of pressure. Support for the campaign has grown on UK university campuses and has been criticised by some Jewish students.” [emphasis added]

The link in that paragraph leads to an article by Jon Ironmonger that appeared on the BBC News website on April 27th and was discussed here. There too BBC audiences were inaccurately led to believe that the BDS campaign is a “human rights” group.

“The BDS – which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – describes itself as a human rights organisation and criticises Israel for its human rights record.

It says it stands for “freedom, justice and equality”, saying it is “inclusive and categorically opposes as a matter of principle all forms of racism” – including anti-Semitism.”” [emphasis added]

As was noted here at the time:

“Had audiences been told in the BBC’s own words that the BDS campaign is opposed to Jews having the basic human right to self-determination in their own country and that denial of Israel’s right to exist is considered – including by the UN Secretary General and according to the definition adopted by the UK government – to be a form of antisemitism, they would have been able to put the BDS campaign’s claim to be a non-racist human rights organisation into its correct context.”

As we once again see from this latest BBC Trending article, when inaccurate information is promoted by the BBC it not only misleads the corporation’s funding public, but also its own staff. The result is that myths such as the claim that the BDS movement promotes human rights are recycled and spread even further.

Related Articles:

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

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

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

BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

Omissions in the BBC’s report on terrorist’s ‘hunger strike’ nosh

 

BBC’s Yolande Knell reports on Archbishop of Canterbury’s ME visit

May 8th saw the appearance of an article by Yolande Knell titled “Archbishop of Canterbury to meet Palestinian and Israeli leaders” on the BBC News website’s Middle East and UK pages.

Much of Knell’s report is devoted to coverage of Justin Welby’s itinerary, which included a very short visit to Christian institutions the Gaza Strip. Knell tells readers that:

“The archbishop has been careful to hear voices from both sides in the decades-old Israel-Palestinian conflict.

In a previously unannounced move, he visited Gaza – which has seen repeated conflicts between Palestinian militants and Israel in the past decade.

He also met Israelis living under threat of rocket fire from Palestinian militants in a kibbutz near the border.”

Residents of the Israeli communities located near the border with the Gaza Strip are not just “under threat” from the terrorists that Knell coyly describes as “militants”: attacks do frequently happen. However, seeing as the BBC has refrained from informing its English-speaking audiences of any of the eight incidents of missile attacks that have taken place since the beginning of this year and throughout the whole of 2016 only reported one attack, readers would be unlikely to be able to fill in the blanks for themselves.

The archbishop also visited Christian institutions in Nazareth including a school and four churches. Regardless of how the people he met there choose to self-identify, Yolande Knell collectively describes them as follows: [emphasis added]

“The archbishop has visited Palestinian Christian communities in Nazareth and in Bethlehem, where he prayed and ate falafel with Christian mayor, Vera Baboun.”

Referring to a story she has often promoted in the past, Knell also tells readers that:

“He [Welby] was due to meet Christian families in the Cremisan Valley, whose land is affected by the construction of Israel’s West Bank barrier.”

One item on the archbishop’s itinerary which Knell left out of her coverage was a visit to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to pay tribute to UK student Hannah Bladon who was murdered last month in a terror attack in the city.

One of the stranger features of this report is Knell’s opening of her article with the promotion of some unfounded linkage.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury is to meet Palestinian and Israeli political leaders as part of a 12-day tour of the Holy Land.

His visit comes two weeks before US President Donald Trump is due to arrive in Jerusalem to try to revive the moribund peace process.

However, the Most Reverend Justin Welby indicated there should not be too much significance read into the timing.”

Welby’s latest trip to the region was announced back in March while Trump’s upcoming visit was announced on May 4th and there is no indication of any link between the two visits. Although Knell tells BBC audiences that the purpose of the US president’s 26 hour visit is “to try to revive the moribund peace process”, the official announcement lays out additional (and no less newsworthy) aims.

“President Trump has also accepted the invitation of President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Israel, where he will further strengthen the United States-Israel partnership.  The leaders will discuss a range of regional issues, including the need to counter the threats posed by Iran and its proxies, and by ISIS and other terrorist groups.  They will also discuss ways to advance a genuine and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

President Trump has also accepted the invitation of President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to meet with him to discuss ways to advance peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, as well as efforts to unlock the potential of the Palestinian economy.”

Moreover, the day before this article was published, the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday’ aired an item about Welby’s trip (from 01:00 here) that was mostly devoted to an interview with the archbishop by Yolande Knell. The last question she asked (at 05:45) was:

Knell: “You’ve come at a very sensitive time as attempts to get peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians restarted. Was that your intention?”

Welby: “I would not presume that. I come to pray, to share, to listen, to encourage. It would be very presumptuous to go further.”

Despite that very clear answer, Knell nevertheless decided to include a totally superfluous mention of the US president’s upcoming visit and “the moribund peace process” in her BBC News website article. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell continues Cremisan crusade with promotion of inaccurate information

BBC reports on Jordan Rift Valley mine clearance lack essential context

 

Omissions in the BBC’s report on terrorist’s ‘hunger strike’ nosh

On May 8th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article – titled “Palestinian hunger strike leader Barghouti ‘filmed eating’” – which relates to a story that broke the previous day.

“Israel’s prison service has released a video purportedly showing the leader of a three-week-old hunger strike by Palestinian inmates eating in his cell.

The service said Marwan Barghouti had been filmed consuming cookies in secret on 27 April and a snack bar on 5 May.”

The article gives generous amplification to statements from interested parties and even before they clicked on the link, BBC audiences were informed that ‘Marwan Barghouti’s wife says the surveillance footage released by Israel’s prison service is “fake”‘.

“Barghouti’s wife said the footage was “fake” and intended to break the morale of the hunger strike’s participants. […]

The head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, Qadoura Fares, called the video a fabrication, stressing Barghouti was being held in solitary confinement at Kishon prison and had no access to food.

“This is psychological warfare that we expected Israel to wage against the strike,” he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, said Israel was “resorting to despicable acts” and warned that they would “increase the prisoners’ insistence on continuing”.”

Previous BBC reports on the story of the hunger strike that commenced on April 17th told BBC audiences that “More than 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails have begun a mass hunger strike against detention conditions”.

In this article readers are told that:

“More than 890 prisoners have been refusing food since 17 April in protest at conditions in Israeli jails.”

They are not however informed that Israeli officials put the number of striking prisoners at around 800 and that participation fell after some dropped out.

Neither are BBC audiences reminded that this is not the first time that Barghouti has been caught eating during a supposed ‘hunger strike’.

“In 2004, the prison service published still shots allegedly showing Barghouti furtively eating food in his cell during a previous hunger strike. Those photos were taken with a hidden camera through a hole in the wall of his cell.”

While this article promotes the claim that the hunger strike is a protest against “conditions in Israeli jails”, once again readers are not informed of the political background to the story and its connection to internal Fatah power struggles.

With regard to Barghouti himself, readers are told that he “was convicted on five counts of murder by an Israeli court in 2004” and that:

“Barghouti is the former leader of the Fatah movement in the West Bank and chief of its armed wing, the Tanzim.

His trial during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, turned him into household name and he enjoys widespread support among many Palestinian factions.

The 57-year-old has been touted as a possible successor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.”

Remarkably – yet unsurprisingly – the BBC refrains from informing readers that groups that Barghouti headed and founded engaged in terrorism under his leadership and that the “five counts of murder” for which he was convicted were terror attacks. The sole use of the word ‘terrorists’ in this report comes in a quote from an Israeli minister.

Related Articles:

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

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

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

BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

 

BBC News website plays along with the ‘softer’ Hamas spin

On May 6th the BBC News website published an article titled “Hamas chooses Ismail Haniya as new leader” on its Middle East page.

Readers are told that:

“Mr Haniya is seen as a pragmatist who will try to ease Hamas’s international isolation.” 

However, audiences are not informed by whom exactly the new Hamas political bureau leader is regarded as “a pragmatist” and neither are they given any insight into Haniyeh’s record of decidedly unrealistic statements that the people who have suffered under his rule for the past decade might well find less than practical and sensible.

“The armed resistance and the armed struggle are the path and the strategic choice for liberating the Palestinian land, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river, and for the expulsion of the invaders and usurpers [Israel]… We won’t relinquish one inch of the land of Palestine.” (Haniyeh, December 2011)

“Brothers and sisters, we were told [during the Gaza War] that if we wanted the war to stop and the siege to be lifted, and if we wanted the red carpet to be rolled out, so that we could reach the White House and other places, we would have to recognize Israel, to curse the resistance, and to release [Gilad] Shalit. We said, from the very heart of the siege, from under the ruins, from the places being bombarded by the F-16 planes… We said then, and I say to you now, in the capital of south Tunisia: We will never ever recognize Israel.” (Haniyeh, January 2012)

“…the resistance will continue until all Palestinian land, including al-Quds (Jerusalem), has been liberated and all the refugees have returned.”

“[The] gun is our only response to [the] Zionist regime. In time we have come to understand that we can obtain our goals only through fighting and armed resistance and no compromise should be made with the enemy.” (Haniyeh, February 2012)

“We think that the path of negotiations and peace talks has reached a dead end. The resistance (i.e., terror campaign, 2000-2005), which liberated Gaza [in 2005] and protected Gaza, can liberate the West Bank and the rest of the Palestinian lands, Allah willing. The liberator of Gaza, with the help of Allah, can liberate Jerusalem, the West Bank and the rest of Palestine (i.e., Israel).” (Haniyeh, May 2014)

“Gaza is part of Palestine and there will be no Palestinian state without Gaza and there will be no state without whole Palestine.” (Haniyeh, March 2017

The BBC’s article links Haniyeh’s unsurprising nomination to the document released by Hamas several days earlier, portraying both events as an attempt to “soften its image” but failing to adequately clarify to readers why neither does any such thing.

“The group published a new policy document this week regarded as an attempt to soften its image. […]

This week, Hamas published its first new policy document since its founding charter.

It declares for the first time a willingness to accept an interim Palestinian state within pre-1967 boundaries, without recognising Israel. […]

The new document stresses it does not mean that Hamas now recognises Israel’s right to exist or that it no longer advocates violence against Israel.”

Readers are told that the Hamas Charter – which a photo caption correctly describes as not being replaced by the new document – includes “anti-Jewish language”.

“It [the new document] also says Hamas’s struggle is not with Jews but with “occupying Zionist aggressors”. The 1988 charter was condemned for its anti-Jewish language.”

Although the phrase “anti-Jewish language” was also seen in an earlier report on the topic of the new Hamas document, there it was clarified what that means.

“For years there has been criticism of Hamas over the language of its charter, in particular articles which were branded anti-Semitic.

The charter speaks of the need to fight “warmongering Jews” and cites a hadith – a report of what the Prophet Muhammad said or approved – that declares “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews)”.

It also refers to the “Jews’ usurpation of Palestine” and accuses Jews of controlling the world’s media and of being behind the French Revolution, secret societies and of controlling imperialist countries.”

No such explanation appears in this latest report.

While journalists at the BBC News website (in contrast to some of their colleagues) clearly understand that Hamas’ latest moves are no more than an attempt to embellish its image for various outside audiences, that its original antisemitic charter still stands and that no significant changes have been made to Hamas policy, curiously they apparently still find it appropriate to provide a platform for the spin of a ‘softer’ Hamas and refrain from informing audiences in clear terms that Ismail Haniyeh is no different to – and no more ‘pragmatic’ than – his predecessor.

Related Articles:

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Revisiting Jeremy Bowen’s facilitation of Hamas PR

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part one: website

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part two: World Service radio

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part three: BBC Radio 4

 

 

BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

When some mostly Fatah-linked Palestinians serving sentences in Israeli prisons began a hunger strike on April 17th, the BBC produced three reports on that story on consecutive days. As was noted here at the time:

“…in all three of the reports, readers find (not for the first time) amplification of the PLO’s narrative concerning Palestinian prisoners – as promoted, for example, in a PLO ‘media brief’ from June 2015. [emphasis added]

Report 1: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

Report 2: “Palestinians say the detainees are political prisoners, while Israel describes them as “terrorists”” (photo caption)

                  “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

Report 3: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis.”

The idea that people who have been convicted of perpetrating acts of terrorism are ‘political prisoners’ is rejected in Europe and we certainly do not see the BBC promoting the notion that people imprisoned in the UK for terror related offences may be defined in such terms.”

On May 2nd the BBC went one step further. Apparently not content with the above uncritical and unqualified amplification of the partisan narrative of the PLO, Jerusalem bureau correspondent Yolande Knell dispensed with the nicety “Palestinians regard”, electing to describe convicted terrorists as “political prisoners” in her (and hence the BBC’s) own words.

Knell’s audio report was broadcast to Radio 4 audiences in the programme ‘The World Tonight’ (from 39:09 here) and an almost identical version of the report was broadcast to BBC World Service audiences in the programme ‘Newshour’ (from 38:11 here).

After listeners heard the sound of chanting, Knell began her report as follows: [emphasis added]

Knell: “Chants of support for Palestinian political prisoners in Israel jails who’ve been refusing food for two weeks in a protest about conditions. As President Abbas prepares to meet President Trump, tensions are rising back home, leading to renewed clashes with Israeli soldiers. In Ramallah I meet Fadwa Barghouti. Her husband Marwan – a popular figure in the president’s Fatah faction – is serving five life sentences for murder in Israel and is leading the hunger strike. She says Palestinians care deeply for the prisoners.”

With Fadwa Barghouti speaking in Arabic in the background, Knell then told listeners:

Knell:”The whole Palestinian people’s been subjected to imprisonment, she tells me. Every Palestinian home knows what it means to have a prisoner, knows suffering and injured pride.”

Of course very many Israeli homes know suffering too: the suffering of having had a loved one murdered by Palestinian terrorists in attacks such as those directed by Fadwa Barghouti’s husband. In her typical style Yolande Knell, however, erased that terrorism and its victims from her pathos-rich yet obviously biased portrayal of terrorists on hunger strike (albeit in waning numbers – which Knell neglected to mention) as “political prisoners”. She continued:

Knell: “Earlier there was another rally in Gaza where Palestinians burnt posters of their president. Here the anger is driven by the damaging internal split between Fatah and its Islamist rival Hamas – which controls Gaza – as well as the moribund peace process.”

Knell provided no evidence to back her bizarre claim that the demonstrations in Gaza on May 2nd were motivated by “the moribund peace process”. She went on:

Knell: “At Birzeit University politics professor George Giacaman now sees Mr Abbas in a tricky position in Washington. He thinks he’ll come under pressure to return to peace talks with Israel without a deal to stop Jewish settlement growth on land the Palestinians want for their future state. That would be very hard to sell to the public.”

Making no effort to inform BBC audiences that the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – the Oslo Accords – do not place any limitations of construction in Israeli communities in Area C but do state that the final status of that area is to be determined in negotiations and its portrayal as “Palestinian land” therefore amplifies a partisan position, Knell allowed her interviewee to promote the myth of “new settlements”: a notion she and her editors know perfectly well is false. [emphasis added]

Giacaman: “The Palestinian side has insisted throughout the past years that before negotiation starts, there has to be a hold to the settlement process. You have to keep in mind that this occupation of Palestinian land spearheaded by the establishment of new settlements in the West Bank undermines any political process, including of course the two-state solution.”

Listeners then heard a recording from the press conference at the meeting between the Israeli prime minister and the US president earlier in the year.

Trump: “As far as settlements, I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We’ll work something out but I would like to see a deal be made. I think a deal will be made.”

Knell next recycled the ‘policy shift’ theme the BBC has been pushing since mid-February even though it was quickly refuted by US officials.

Knell: “President Trump speaking to Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February. Israel had announced plans for several thousand new settler homes during his first month in office with relatively little criticism. And the new US leader appeared ready to break with long-established American foreign policy backing the creation of a Palestinian state as the only way to end the Middle East conflict.”

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 the 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 best.”

Knell: “Palestinians don’t expect the meeting between Mr Abbas and Mr Trump to be so friendly. But the Palestinian president has tried to strengthen his hand by meeting the leaders of Washington’s close Arab allies Egypt and Jordan on his way to the White House. So could the US be about to broker another round of peace talks?”

Giacaman: “I doubt if anything would come of it. I don’t think President Abbas has anything new to offer and I doubt Mr Trump is in a position to give the Israeli-Palestinian issue all his concentrations. The exposure to American public opinion and to the American leadership; this will help a lot because they are the only people in the world who can influence the Palestinians, Israelis to go to peace.”

Knell closed her report:

Knell: “Recently Palestinians have seen their cause overshadowed by other regional concerns. Their leaders now hope that the unpredictable approach of Mr Trump could work in their favour. Their official line is that he offers a rare chance for peace.”

Knell’s portrayal of the chances of renewal of negotiations of course airbrushed very pertinent context such as the increasingly acrimonious rift between the PA and Hamas and the related fact that the long since unelected Mahmoud Abbas cannot even set foot in the Gaza Strip, let alone claim to represent all the Palestinians.  

However, Knell’s aim in this report was obviously not to provide domestic and foreign BBC audiences with a realistic, accurate and impartial report on the story but to promote PLO talking points – primarily the false claim that imprisoned terrorists are “political prisoners”.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part three: BBC Radio 4

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part two: World Service radio

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

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

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

Inaccuracies and omissions in BBC News reporting on Abbas White House visit

Resources:

How to complain to the BBC