BBC Radio Ulster audiences hear that ‘Israel should be wiped off the map’

On January 30th the BBC News website published an article that included the BBC’s response to calls from supporters of the anti-Israel BDS campaign to boycott the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.

Notwithstanding the BBC’s statement on the issue, the following day – January 31st – BBC Northern Ireland’s BBC Radio Ulster decided to air a long phone-in item on its ‘Talkback’ programme hosted by William Crawley. Titled “Is the BBC right to take part in Eurovison being held in Tel Aviv, or should the corporation stay away?”, the item included contributions from journalist/activist Eamonn McCann and historian Ruth Dudley Edwards as well as seven callers.

On the hook of the Eurovision Song Contest, listeners heard thirty-eight minutes of mostly unchallenged falsehoods and delegitimisation – often outstanding for their ignorance even by the ‘standards’ of BBC Radio Ulster. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Having informed listeners in his introduction that “Jerusalem is a disputed capital” and after noting the BBC’s statement on the call to boycott May’s event in Tel Aviv, Crawley invited listeners to phone in.

“What do you think? You’re a licence fee payer. Do you think the BBC is right to continue with its role in the Eurovision contest this year or should it boycott the Tel Aviv Eurovision?”

Crawley then asked his guest Eamonn McCann – introduced as a “journalist and former ‘People Before Profit’ MLA [member of the legislative assembly]” and a supporter of “the boycott movement” – to “lay out the case for the boycott first”.

McCann began by promoting a popular but inaccurate myth according to which the BDS campaign was initiated by Palestinians.

McCann: “well the boycott movement – BDS boycott, divestment and sanctions – that was set up in 2005 yes and that was the year after and it was a response to the publication of an opinion of the International Court of Justice about the legality of the apartheid wall – or separation wall as the Israelis call it – and the associated settlement figures. Now the BDS movement arose, endorsed by more than 60 civil society organisations that are from…of Palestinians and a…the actual…its manifesto said that they wanted a boycott of Israel – quote – until it meets its obligations under international law and that was spelled out by the BDS movement at the beginning as ending its occupation and colonisation of Arab lands, recognising the fundamental rights of Arab Palestinian citizens to full equality and respecting protection and promoting the rights of Palestinians to return to their homes. Now that’s the aim of it. It is an entirely peaceful sort of movement. Indeed it was formed because previously we had a sustained violence and nothing else – nothing else. The BDS movement couldn’t stop the violence of the resistance of Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza, but it said here is a non-violent way of engaging international support and trying at last to pressure the Israelis into abandoning what is an apartheid system. That’s what’s happening here: apartheid in the 21st century. And just as we had a boycott of apartheid South Africa, we should now certainly not be presenting Israel as a sort of normal state where light entertainment and progressive thought flourishes. That is to deny – implicitly to deny – the reality under which the Palestinian people live. Therefore boycott it.”

Making no effort to challenge McCann’s repeated ‘apartheid’ smear, to point out that the ICJ opinion has no legal standing or to clarify that ‘Arab lands’ also means Israel and ‘right of return’ means the end of the Jewish state, Crawley went on to quote the BBC’s statement once again before introducing Ruth Dudley Edwards whom he promptly interrupted with the following dubious claim:

Crawley: “This is obviously organised by the European Broadcasting Union and there were some in Israel – not least the prime minister – Prime Minister Netanyahu – who wanted the event to be held in Jerusalem, Ruth. But the European Broadcasting Union determined that it should be held in Tel Aviv. That’s a break with normal tradition. They normally go with a country’s capital and the prime minister said the country’s capital is Jerusalem so isn’t the European Broadcasting Union there making a political decision?”

Even if he does not remember that the 2004 Eurovision was held in Istanbul rather than Turkey’s capital, the 2011 event in Dusseldorf rather than the German capital, the 2013 Eurovision on Malmo rather than Sweden’s capital, the 1972 event in Edinburgh and the 1974 event in Brighton rather than in London, one would at least have thought that Crawley would recall that in 1993 the Eurovision was held in a small Irish town called Millstreet rather than in Dublin.

When Dudley Edwards went on to note that the “BDS movement is being used to help demonise Israel, delegitimise it”, Crawley jumped in:

Crawley: “Why are you bringing up antisemitism?”

After explaining that some of those behind the BDS campaign are driven by antisemitism and that the so-called ‘right of return’ means “the rights of 8 million people who hate Israel to come and live in Israel” because of the hereditary aspect of Palestinian ‘refugee’ status, Dudley Edwards clarified that “the objective is to destroy Israel”.

Crawly quickly brought in McCann at that point, who three times tarred Dudley Edward’s statements as “nonsense”.

McCann: “I mean are we all driven by antisemites? Is there a secret conspiracy here? Is the United Methodist Church in the United States, is the Norwegian Trade Union Federation, is Amnesty International, is Human Rights Watch? […] Incidentally, many of my best friends are anti-Zionist Jews. Many of my best friends are Jews.”

McCann went on to invoke Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Ronnie Kasrils and Joe Slovo.

McCann: “If they say…if Nelson Mandela says that looks like apartheid then I think that he knows a wee bit more about apartheid than either Ruth or myself and I’m gonna take his word for it.”

McCann proceeded to interrupt Ruth Dudley Edwards as she tried to describe the terrorism faced by Israelis and then went on:

McCann: “They’re not dealing with rockets every day of the week. In fact the number of rockets being fired from Gaza or anywhere else is very small – tiny, infinitesimal – compared to the firepower being directed by Israel against the Palestinian people. That is why in terms of deaths […] We can watch on our televisions and actually see heavily armed members of the Israeli Defence Forces shooting – aiming and shooting down – and shooting in the back young Palestinians. Some of them might be carrying stones – it’s all they have – and sling shots like David had to use against Goliath. That’s what you see now.”

Crawley made no effort to inform listeners that the “infinitesimal” number of rockets and mortars launched from Gaza at Israeli civilians in 2018 was one thousand or that “stones” are obviously by no means “all they have” seeing as hundreds of attacks with IEDs, grenades and firearms have been carried out in the past year alone. Neither did Crawley react when Mc Cann went on to claim that “there’s slaughter going on there” before once again invoking the political NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

During the phone-in part of the item listeners heard from seven callers – all male – three of whom were against boycotting the Eurovision and four in favour. Many of the lies and distortions promoted by those callers went unchallenged.

Caller 2: “Israel used white phosphorus on civilians – children, men, women. Journalists – kills journalists on a regular basis. It destroys olive trees. Takes land off people, you know, it murders people, children. How can anyone in their right kind of mind accept anything that Israel does? Israel should be wiped off the map and the land should be given back to the Palestinians. […] They should be…their power should be taken off them and it should be returned to the Palestinian people and they should all live in peace together in one area. […] The power and the government and the structure should be returned back to the Palestinians.”

Crawley made no effort to clarify to listeners that “the Palestinians” never had an independent state with “power and the government and the structure”. Neither did he bother to inform his audience – and his caller – that denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination is considered antisemitism according to the IHRA definition that is used by the British government.

Listeners also heard from McCann on the topic of Israel’s existence.

McCann: “I don’t accept its right to exist as it’s presently constituted. Israel is a settler state.”

They also heard him opine on the rights of the LGBT community in Israel.

Crawley: “Would you also accept that LGBT rights are more protected in Israel than any other country in that region?”

McCann: “Yes [….] but let’s get this clear…the fact that a great number of LGBT in Israel are anti-Palestinian. We mustn’t allow the fact that…if you’re LGBT you’re entitled to your freedom, you’re entitled to your liberation and your equality. You are not entitled just because you’re LGBT or anything else, you are not entitled to support and to endorse and to implement an apartheid regime against the Palestinian people. Nothing gives you that right.”

Caller 4 also promoted the lie that “Israel is an apartheid state” with no challenge from Crawley, as did caller 5.

Caller 5: “Israel is an apartheid state – much more even than South Africa. […] What happened in Israel shouldn’t be happening. All those people were moved off their land over the last 60 – 70 years. 100 years ago there was Jewish people living in what is now Israel, living then in peace and it’s only when they became, I suppose, a force that they then started moving in on Palestinian villages. […] Israel should be ostracised worldwide…as long as Israel is doing what they’re doing – slaughtering the people.”

While the level of most of the ‘discussion’ heard in this programme is frankly jaw-dropping, it is acutely obvious that its presenter – despite the BBC’s public purpose obligation to educate and inform – was perfectly content to let historical and current affairs related inaccuracies go unchallenged along with the repeated falsehoods – and in particular the ‘apartheid’ smear – that were clearly intended to delegitimise Israel and curry support for the BDS campaign.

And so, not for the first time ,we see that unfettered defamation, demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel – along with promotion of the antisemitic denial of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination – gets a free pass on BBC Northern Ireland radio stations.

Related Articles:

BBC News Eurovision BDS report follows the usual template

BBC Radio Ulster promotes ‘Zionism is racism’ and the ‘apartheid’ smear

Move over Galloway: BBC Radio Ulster airs pro-Assad & anti-Israel propaganda

Resources:

BBC Radio Ulster contact details

‘Talkback’ contact details

 

 

 

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BBC News Eurovision BDS report follows the usual template

On January 30th an article by BBC music reporter Mark Savage titled “Stars urge BBC to ask for Eurovision to be moved out of Israel” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Entertainment & Arts’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

The article relates to a letter published – as usual – by the Guardian newspaper the previous day and most of Savage’s report is composed of unqualified quotes from that letter (together with a link to the original) and statements made by the BBC in response.

Among the quotes that went unchallenged by Savage was an ‘apartheid’ smear.

“The letter comes a week before Eurovision: You Decide, a live BBC TV show through which the British public will vote for the act to represent the UK.

“For any artist of conscience, this would be a dubious honour,” the letter said.

“They and the BBC should consider that You Decide is not a principle extended to the Palestinians, who cannot ‘decide’ to remove Israel’s military occupation and live free of apartheid.””

At the end of the report readers were told that: [emphasis added]

“Many of the signatories to Wednesday’s [sic] letter have previously made calls for a cultural boycott of Israel, criticising artists such as Nick Cave, Radiohead and Lana Del Rey for organising concerts in the country.

Their campaign follows an earlier call for Eurovision to be relocated, made last September by a coalition of artists from across Europe.

That was organised by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which urges a complete boycott of Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians.

Israel says BDS opposes Israel’s very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism.”

That unsatisfactory “Israel says” formulation has been in evidence since April 2018.

There is of course nothing novel about the BBC avoiding informing audiences in its own words that what the BDS campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state. For years we have documented on these pages how the corporation has serially failed to provide an accurate and impartial portrayal of the aims and agenda of the BDS campaign – even as it has frequently provided that campaign and some of its supporters with free PR. Moreover, in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers the provision of such crucial background information “not our role“.

Research carried out in the UK shows “a clear link between antisemitism and hostility towards Israel, finding that a majority of people in the UK who support boycotts or regard Israel as an apartheid state hold anti-Jewish views.”

The survey:

“…sought to examine the relationship between anti-Jewish sentiment and a belief that Israel should be boycotted and is an apartheid state – two of the central, interrelated claims of the country’s critics in the UK. […]

“A relationship exists between British people’s agreement with each of the two key contentions and their predisposition towards anti-Jewish sentiment – as one scale increases, so does the other,” write the authors, Dr. Jonathan Boyd, executive director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, and Dr. David Graham, its senior research fellow. […]

The correlation between anti-Jewish sentiment and support for BDS was stronger than the belief that Israel is an apartheid state and bigotry against Jews, although the latter correlation is “clearly evident”.”

Among the public purposes set out by the Royal Charter and Agreement that are the constitutional basis for the BBC are the provision of “accurate and impartial news” and “learning for people of all ages”.

As long as the BBC continues to unquestioningly amplify politically motivated delegitimisation such as the ‘apartheid’ smear and to report stories relating to the anti-Israel BDS campaign without providing audiences with the full range of information concerning the aims of that political campaign, it not only neglects those public purposes but, as the above research shows, opts out of playing a part in tackling anti-Jewish racism in the UK.

Related Articles:

The Guardian: Platform of choice for anti-Israel activism  (UK Media Watch)

BBC Music again covers a BDS story without explaining that campaign’s agenda

BBC Music promotes falsehoods and BDS campaign website

BBC Radio 4 provides a stage for anti-Israel activist’s agitprop and defamation

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2018

 

 

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2018

As has often been noted here, for years the BBC has reported stories relating to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) without adequately clarifying to its audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state.  Moreover, in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers the provision of such crucial background information “not our role“.

So did BBC audiences see any improvement in reporting on that topic in 2018?

The year opened with listeners to BBC Radio 5 live on January 1st hearing a gratuitous and baseless comparison of Israel to the former apartheid regime in South Africa and being repeatedly told that a singer had made the “right” call by giving in to pressure from supporters of a campaign that the BBC presenter made no effort whatsoever to the explain properly.

Radio 5 live item promotes apartheid analogy, breaches style guide

A week later listeners to BBC World Service heard an item which dealt specifically with the subject of the BDS campaign, but once again the BBC did not provide audiences with the clear picture of its aims that they have lacked for years. Rather, in addition to providing an inaccurate definition of the campaign’s goals himself, the presenter allowed his interviewee to promote inaccurate statements and claims with no challenge.

BDS campaigner’s falsehoods go unchallenged on BBC World Service

BBC World Service amends inaccurate photo caption

In April the BBC News website published a report about an Irish BDS supporter in which it used the ‘Israel says’ formula to preface an explanation of the BDS campaign and the subject’s links to it.

BBC News uses ‘Israel says’ instead of fact checking

In May listeners to BBC World Service radio heard promotion of the BDS campaign – which as usual was not explained to audiences – and the ‘apartheid trope from a Palestinian interviewee.

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

Also in May the BBC News website published a report concerning an employee of a political NGO involved in boycott activities, 25% of which was given over to sympathetic statements.

BBC News website amplifies the NGO echo-chamber

The same month listeners to BBC Radio Ulster heard BDS messaging from a studio guest.

Inaccuracy, omission and oddity in a BBC Radio Ulster item on Israel – part two

In early June the BBC News website failed to adequately portray the role played by BDS campaigners’ threats in the cancellation of a football match.

How BBC News framed the Argentina-Israel football match story

BBC amends misleading Argentina match report after complaint

In August the BBC News website reported a business story while avoiding any mention of its own amplification of a related BDS campaign four years earlier.

BBC News website’s SodaStream report sidesteps its own previous reporting

In September the BBC News website reported the cancellation of a singer’s performance in Israel and once again made use of the ‘Israel says’ formula.

BBC’s BDS campaign reporting failures continue

Later the same month the BBC News website published a report that included promotion of the ‘apartheid’ smear and amplification of the BDS campaign.

BBC News continues to mainstream BDS and the ‘apartheid’ smear

A BBC News website report published in October erased the participation of BDS campaigners from an account of a ‘tolerance rally’.

Looking beyond the BBC Berlin correspondent’s framing

In November the BBC News website produced inadequate reporting about a boycott campaign initiated by political NGOs.

BBC News website framing of the Airbnb listings story

Later the same month listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard an inadequate report on Quaker support for the BDS campaign.

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ highlights Quaker hypocrisy but still fails listeners

Once again on no occasion throughout 2018 were audiences 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.

That obviously hinders the ability of audiences to put the BDS campaign’s claim to be a non-racist human rights organisation into its appropriate context and affects their view of criticism of the campaign from other sources.

The fact that on two occasions in 2018 we saw the BBC News website telling readers that “Israel says the BDS movement opposes the country’s very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism” does not mean that the story has been reported accurately and impartially.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2017

 

 

 

A BBC contributor’s ‘particular viewpoint’

As we regrettably frequently have cause to note on these pages, BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality include the following:

All too often, however, BBC audiences are not given the required insight into the “particular viewpoint” of an interviewee which would allow them to put his or her contribution into its appropriate context.

One such example was seen last December when a contributor to a BBC World Service radio item concerning what was at the time still a potential announcement by the US president concerning Jerusalem and the US embassy in Israel was introduced as follows:

“We’ve been getting opinions from Israel, from America: now for a Palestinian view of the implications. We’ve been speaking to Professor Saree Makdisi. He’s based in California. He’s the author of ‘Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation’. So, Professor Makdisi, how significant is this move?”

As noted here at the time, listeners were not informed that the US born professor of English literature is a proponent of a bi-national state – and the resulting elimination of the Jewish state – and a supporter of the BDS campaign

In the wake of the recent lethal attack on worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Makdisi had several comments to make.

The people Makdisi claims were killed “in Gaza” on the evening of October 28th were in fact approaching the border fence, in the dark, with a suspicious object

“Three Palestinians were killed Sunday during an IDF airstrike near Khan Yunis after they were identified placing a suspicious object, believed to be an explosive device, on the border fence.

The Palestinians were spotted by a Gaza division observation post while they were crawling in the dark towards the security fence with the suspicious object.”

Makdisi however equated that incident with the deadly attack on Jews in the Pittsburgh synagogue by disingenuously claiming that both cases come under the heading ‘racial violence’. He equated an anti-Semitic murderer with members of the armed forces tasked with protecting civilians from cross-border attacks which have been going on for seven months.

And that is the mindset behind the ‘expert academic opinion’ heard by BBC audiences around the world last December: the obviously highly relevant “particular viewpoint” which the BBC – despite its own editorial guidelines – made no effort whatsoever to clarify.

Related Articles:

Inaccuracies and distortions go unchallenged on BBC WS ‘Newsday’ – part two

 

BBC News continues to mainstream BDS and the ‘apartheid’ smear

A story which had emerged a few days earlier was the topic of an article which appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘US & Canada’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on September 21st under the headline “Michigan professor embroiled in Israel boycott row“.

While presentation of the story itself was little different from that seen at other media outlets, the BBC’s article included the corporation’s usual unsatisfactory portrayal of the anti-Israel political campaign calling for ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) – including a recycled video – as well as amplification of the ‘apartheid’ smear and some selected links.

Readers were told that:

“The BDS movement accuses Israel of human rights violations and says it opposes “all forms of racism”, including anti-Semitism.”

Critically, BBC audiences were not however informed that one of the BDS campaign’s declared aims is the so-called ‘right of return’ to Israel for millions of Palestinians: a policy intended to eliminate Jewish self-determination. The denial of the right of Jews to self-determination is included in the IHRA definition of antisemitism.  

Readers were informed that the Michigan University professor had “told the BBC”:

I reject any attack of anti-Semitism,” […]

“The boycott of state institutions of Israel has nothing to do with the people – it has everything to do with not normalising a system that is apartheid-like.” [emphasis added]

Apparently not content with that second-hand amplification of the ‘apartheid’ smear, the report went on to tell readers in the BBC’s own words that:

“Israel is accused by some critics of practising a form of apartheid – the state-sanctioned racial discrimination of black people during white-minority rule in South Africa – against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Israel has vehemently rejected this allegation.” [emphasis added]

Readers also found an embedded video captioned “BDS’ Michael Deas explains the thinking behind the boycott” in which they were told that:

“The international community consistently fails to hold Israel to account for its violations of international law. So given this failure, ten years ago – in July 2005 – Palestinian organisations came together to issue an appeal for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions similar to the boycott campaign that helped end apartheid in South Africa. And the boycott calls for non-violent pressure against Israel until it complies with international law.

The Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel is for a boycott of all Israeli products. Now we know that some people and some organisations are really at the moment only comfortable boycotting products that come from settlements and that’s a position that we understand and can sympathise with. The problem is is [sic] the Israeli export companies that are exporting oranges and avocados, they routinely lie about where their products are coming from so the only safe way for people to avoid buying products from the settlements is not to buy Israeli products altogether.” [emphasis added]

That video was first seen in BBC content in July 2015 and despite the multiple inaccuracies promoted in that unchallenged monologue from professional activist and former LSE student Michael Deas, the corporation has been recycling it ever since.

Readers were also offered a number of links to what the BBC apparently considers related reading both in the body of the report and underneath it:

1) an article mainstreaming BDS by Kevin Connolly from July 2015 – discussed here.

2) a problematic and much amended backgrounder on ‘settlements’ originally produced in December 2016 – discussed here and here.

3) an article about the ‘nation state law’ – discussed here.

4) a report from November 2016 about minorities serving in the IDF – discussed here.

5) a report titled “Why do US evangelicals support Trump’s Jerusalem policy?”.

The BBC’s record of reporting on the anti-Israel BDS campaign is abysmal: for years the corporation has reported related stories without adequately clarifying to its audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state and while concurrently uncritically amplifying the baseless ‘apartheid’ smear. Moreover, in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers that provision of such crucial background information is “not our role“.

As this article demonstrates, that editorial policy remains in place and the BBC continues to facilitate the mainstreaming of the politically motivated delegitimisation of the anti-Israel BDS campaign.

Related Articles:

The BBC and the ‘apartheid’ smear

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part one

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part two

More BBC mainstreaming of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – part three

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2017

 

Weekend long read

1) While Adalah is not the BBC’s most frequently quoted and promoted political NGO, it does appear in BBC content from time to time. David Collier has taken a closer look at one of that NGO’s flagship projects.

“Adalah are an NGO in Israel that claims to promote human rights in Israel in general and the rights of the Arab citizens of Israel ‘in particular’.

Adalah created a database of ‘discriminatory laws’ that has been used as a central pillar for anti-Israel boycott activities (BDS). Adalah’s database is the primary source for one of the three aims of the boycott Israel movement.

These laws are referenced everywhere. In the UN, in every anti-Israel meeting, in many European governments. There is hardly an anti-Israel book that is published that does not reference the list of laws. The list is a pillar of the boycott Israel movement.

Just one problem: The list is little more than a scam.”

2) MEMRI documents some of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah PR campaign against the anticipated US administration peace initiative.

“Even before its terms have been publicized, the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan, known as “the Deal of the Century,” has encountered harsh opposition from the Palestinian Authority (PA), on the grounds that it does not promote peace but seeks to eliminate the Palestinian national identity and the Palestinian state and to topple the Palestinian leadership. Against this backdrop, PA elements have directed personal attacks at the U.S. officials promoting the deal. […]

Harsh criticism against the deal and its proponents was also voiced by Fatah, whose chairman is Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas. Recently the movement announced the launching of “a national campaign to thwart the Deal of the Century.””

3) At the INSS Gallia Lindenstrauss reviews “The Elections in Turkey: Strengthened Ultra-Nationalist Forces and the Possible Impact on Turkish Foreign Policy”.

“In Turkey’s June 24, 2018 elections, incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected for another term, and the ultra-nationalist parties grew stronger. This is significant first and foremost in the Kurdish context, since the nationalists can be expected to be among the main opponents of renewing the peace process with the Kurdish underground. This will also have extensive repercussions on Turkish foreign policy toward Syria and Iraq, and as such, on Turkey’s relations with the regional and global powers.”

4) At the Times of Israel Ari Ingel discusses “Israel, Gaza, and International Law”.

“Pro-Palestinian commentators and social media activists have been lambasting Israel over the course of the recent Gaza demonstrations for violating international law with proclamations of war crimes and human rights violations.

While a law degree apparently comes free with every twitter account, much of this talk is mere bluster with no foundation in the actual law itself, but rather, espoused with an intention to falsely vilify Israel and its leaders in the court of public opinion.” 

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

The May 14th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ – presented by Razia Iqbal – included a pre-recorded interview (from 16:05 here) with regular BBC guest Mustafa Barghouti in which many of the themes already apparent at the beginning of the programme (discussed in part one of this post) were repeated and reinforced.

Iqbal: “Let’s hear now from the Palestinians. Mustafa Barghouti is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He also sits on the central council of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. A short while ago I spoke to him from our Ramallah studio. He gave me his reaction to the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.”

Barghouti: “This move from the side of the administration of President Trump is very bad and I think it makes the United States complicit and even participant in violating international law and actually committing a war crime by approving the annexation of occupied territories by force. It also destroys the ability of the United States to be a negotiator in any peace process.” […]

Iqbal: “Let’s start with that first point that you made – that the US is in violation of international law. President Trump would argue that the peace process was moribund and by taking Jerusalem off the table, he has a plan to reinject life into a process that was dead.”

Barghouti: “No, he is substituting the peace between two sides with…and enforcing a deal unilaterally with Israel on the Palestinian side, consolidating the occupation and the system of apartheid and racial discrimination. He’s taking off the table the issue of Jerusalem, the issue of settlements, the issue of refugees. So practically he’s saying I’m fulfilling what the Israelis want.”

Listeners heard no challenge to Barghouti’s ‘apartheid’ smear from Razia Iqbal, who went on to ask a ‘question’ which is obviously irrelevant given that Israel’s position on its capital has not changed in thirty-eight years and merely served as a cue for more of Barghouti’s deliberately delegitimising falsehoods and smears.

Iqbal: “A third of the residents of Jerusalem are Palestinians. Given what Prime Minister Netanyahu has been saying about Jerusalem being the undivided capital of Israel, what do you think is going to happen to those Palestinians now.”

Barghouti: “Well they are treated as third grade citizens. They are discriminated against. There is one law for Israelis and another for Palestinians. Their properties are confiscated. They are prohibited from building new homes. In reality, Mr Netanyahu is trying to push the Palestinians out of Jerusalem and trying to exercise ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people.”

Razia Iqbal could have put Barghouti’s allegations of ethnic cleansing into proportion had she told listeners that the Arab population of Jerusalem grew from 69,000 (26%) in 1967 to 324,000 (37%) in 2015. She chose not to do so. Listeners then got an insight into the source of Iqbal’s earlier claim that “many people” think that “the United States is joining the occupier in violating international law”.

Iqbal: “How are the Palestinians going to respond in the context of what you regard as a violation of international law? If you’re saying that the US is now siding with the occupying power, what is it that you can do about the United States breaking those resolutions at the United Nations?”

Barghouti responded with promotion of the BDS campaign – which as usual was not explained to audiences. Later on he was given another opportunity to promote the ‘apartheid’ smear unchallenged.

Iqbal: “The United States is clearly moving in a direction unilaterally in many different spheres. Who would you like to intervene now?”

Barghouti: “Look I believe our case is very similar to the case of South African people who struggled against apartheid. There was a time when most governments turned their backs to Nelson Mandela who was described as a terrorist. […] I think the peoples of the world are now realising how just the cause of the Palestinians is and how it is unacceptable to allow Israel to create a system of apartheid in the 21st century.”

After a break, Iqbal returned to the story at 30:06 with more of the same messaging.

Iqbal: “We’re going to return to our top story today – the story that’s dominating our programme – the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem: an issue that has been hugely contentious. The Israelis of course welcoming it. Palestinians and many in the international community seeing it as going against international consensus.”

At 36:09 Iqbal spoke to former US Senator Joe Lieberman who was at the US embassy event and –as she clarified – was one of those who put forward the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act.  Iqbal told listeners:

Iqbal: “It [the act] did pass both Senate and the House but it was not signed into law by then president Bill Clinton.”

That obviously implies to BBC audiences that the Jerusalem Embassy Act did not become law. In fact, a footnote states:

Ignoring the fact that in his December 6thstatement the US president specifically said “[w]e are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders”, during their conversation Iqbal ‘asked’ Lieberman:

Iqbal: “The president could have said though – couldn’t he? – that the US would move its embassy to west Jerusalem. The idea of claiming Jerusalem in its entirety as the capital sends out a very hostile – at the worst – but in some respects not a neutral position or signal to the Palestinians.”

Iqbal again promoted the ‘US embassy relocation as the end of the peace process’ theme.

Iqbal: “Do you think there still is scope for a peace process?”

She promoted another recurring theme by referring to the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem as a decision that “puts Washington completely at odds with the rest of the international community” and when her interviewee responded that “a country puts its embassy in the city that the host country declares to be its capital”, Iqbal interrupted him.

Iqbal: “But Senator Lieberman – I’m so sorry to interrupt you – under the UN resolution East Jerusalem is occupied territory.”

Iqbal did not bother to clarify to listeners that the UNSC resolution to which she referred – 2334 – is non-binding.

At 45:03 Iqbal introduced her final pre-recorded interviewee – the head of an American political NGO that claims to have been trying (obviously unsuccessfully) to “promote a just resolution” to the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1979. Listeners however were not provided with background on that NGO’s political stance (as required by BBC editorial guidelines) which would help them put the contributor’s words into context.

Iqbal: “We are going to stay with our top story now and hear from Lara Friedman who is president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace in Washington. I began by asking her a little while ago how significant she thought the move was for the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Unsurprisingly, Friedman’s responses dovetailed with the themes Iqbal had chosen to promote throughout the programme.

Freidman: “The moving of the embassy has been a red line politically.”

Friedman: “The notion that you reinvigorate a peace process by effectively telling one side all of the arguments we made to you to come into a peace process are now dead and we expect you to stay or come into a peace process based on an entirely different set of arguments that compromise everything that you need – it doesn’t pass what I call the laugh test. It’s impossible to hear that without laughing if you understand what is necessary for Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

Iqbal: “The Palestinians argue that in doing this President Trump and the United States has placed itself on the side of the occupying power and that by recognizing Jerusalem in its entirety as the capital of Israel, it is in violation of international law since East Jerusalem is an occupied territory recognised by international law. Is there any scope in taking that route?”

Friedman: “It isn’t the Palestinians who say that – it’s pretty much the rest of the world except for Guatemala and possibly Paraguay down the road. This is not a move that is recognised as legitimate by anyone and on the question of whether or not President Trump is taking the side of Israel – the occupier – I mean Mr Trump himself has said ‘I’ve taken Jerusalem off the table’.”

Freidman: “The United States really has in the views of almost anyone who looks at this issue seriously, they have taken themselves out of the room as a viable or credible steward of a peace process…”

And with that cosy little echo-chamber interview, ‘Newshour’ reporting on the topic of the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem came to a close.

As we see BBC audiences worldwide were fed a highly regimented view of the topic of the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem. They heard no serious discussion of the topic of the ‘international law’ to which Iqbal and some of her guests repeatedly referred as though it was not open to different interpretation. The idea that the US embassy’s move brings about the demise of the ‘peace process’ was repeatedly promoted with no discussion whatsoever of any additional factors affecting that process and the notion of the United States being at odds with an ‘international consensus’ was amplified unquestioningly.

Just as it was all too obvious what impression of the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem  BBC audiences were intended to take away, the programme’s presentation of the second topic on the ‘split screen’ – the Gaza border rioting on May 14th – was equally monochrome, as we will see in a separate post.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC Arabic producer breaches social media guidelines again

Few would have been surprised to see Ha’aretz publisher Amos Schocken’s March 22nd Tweet promoting the notion that Israel is guilty of ‘apartheid’: he has, after all, touted such  allegations on the pages of his paper for years.

“Of the characteristics of apartheid: one legal system for Jews and another for natives”

Members of the BBC’s funding public may, however, have been disturbed to see a clearly identified BBC Arabic producer retweet that controversial smear to his own Twitter followers.

The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on impartiality state:

“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved.  Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.  They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views in BBC output, including online, on such matters.” [emphasis added]

Additionally, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on “Social Networking and Other Third Party Websites (including Blogs, Microblogs and Personal Webspace): Personal Use” include the following:

“…when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies.”

Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. For example, News and Current Affairs staff should not: […]

advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate.” [emphasis added]

Clearly that retweet of an ‘apartheid’ smear by BBC Arabic producer Michael Shuval certainly does have an impact on public perceptions of impartiality in BBC reporting on Israel. 

Related Articles:

BBC News, impartiality and the Israeli elections

BBC News producer breaches impartiality guidelines on social media

BBC brushes off a complaint about a journalist’s Tweets

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ hosts Ahmad Tibi – part one

Israeli MK Ahmad Tibi from the Joint List travelled to London earlier this month to speak at a conference organised by the pro-Hamas organisation ‘Middle East Monitor’ (MEMO).

While in the British capital, Tibi also gave an interview (available here to UK audiences and also here) to the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk‘ which was aired on March 7th on the BBC News Channel and the BBC World News Channel. A clip from the interview was promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Ahmad Tibi: Trump ‘promoting anarchy’ in Middle East” and an audio version was broadcast on BBC World Service radio (and also made available as a podcast) where it was presented with the following synopsis: 

“Stephen Sackur speaks to Ahmad Tibi. He is a veteran Arab Israeli MP and one time adviser to Yasser Arafat. President Donald Trump claimed he could broker the deal of the century between Israel and the Palestinian. Instead he seems to have entrenched the hostility after recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Is the Arab-Israeli experience a sign that the status quo is the only viable response to the conflict between Jews and Arabs?”

Stephen Sackur gave a very similar introduction to the filmed version of the interview but the audio version had a different introduction: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Sackur: “My guest today is an elected politician who insists that his is a life stripped of genuine freedom and democracy. Ahmad Tibi is a member of the Israeli Knesset – one of its deputy speakers in fact. He leads the Arab Movement for Change party and is a familiar figure to Israelis making impassioned speeches on the floor of the chamber in fluent Hebrew. Roughly a fifth of Israel’s population is Arab. They have citizenship, they can vote, but according to Tibi they remain second-class citizens in a state that he likens to apartheid South Africa. His parents were originally from Jaffa but fled during the war of 1948 and made a new home in the area of Israel known as the Arab Triangle. He is a trained gynecologist. But he became a prominent political figure who was a close advisor to Yasser Arafat during the Oslo peace process. Now of course that process is lifeless. President Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and suggested he isn’t committed to that old trope the two-state solution. So where does that leave the Arabs – both inside Israel and those Palestinians outside? Well Ahmad Tibi joins me now.”

Predictably, given the BBC’s intense focus on that topic in recent months, Sackur began with the subject of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – also the topic of the MEMO conference attended by Tibi.

SS: “I think we have to start with the impact of the Donald Trump presidency on relations between Palestinians and Israelis. Would you agree that it has fundamentally changed the dynamic in the region?”

AT: “Yes, for the negative. I think that Trump and his administration promoted and promoting anarchy in the region and anarchy in the world by supporting, enhancing, encouraging, violation of international law and adopting one side on behalf of another. President Trump via his speech about Jerusalem, he totally adopted the Israeli narrative and the occupation narrative. To say that he and his Three Musketeers – advisors who are great supporters of the settlements – adopted the talking points of Benjamin Netanyahu…”

Far from challenging Tibi’s specious claim concerning ‘international law’, Sackur endorsed it.

SS: “Well, you can…you can make your point about international law but surely what Donald Trump has actually done is recognise reality in perhaps a more honest way than previous US presidents because the truth is it’s obvious to everyone that the Israeli capital is in Jerusalem.  That’s where the prime minister’s office is, it’s where the cabinet meets, it’s where the government buildings are and Donald Trump has said enough with this nonsense; let’s just recognise reality.”

AT: “That’s nonsense. Because 1967 – East Jerusalem was occupied in 1967, this is the reality. And if there is a thief in the area and he stole your house, it is a reality but you’re not supposed to accept reality as it is legitimate fact.”

Sackur refrained from reminding audiences that parts of Jerusalem were occupied before 1967 – by Jordan.

SS: “Sure but Trump did say in the course last December of announcing that he would move the embassy to Jerusalem – and we understand it may happen quicker than we thought this year – he did say look I’m not prejudging what the two parties finally agree on Jerusalem; they can do what they want, they can divide it in the future as they wish. We are simply recognising what we now see to be Israel’s capital.”

AT: He said more than that. In 1980, there was a motion, a law in the Knesset, saying exactly what he is saying in his speech. He adopted that law of unified capital of Israel, containing Supreme Court, government, parliament. He adopted that phrasing, even. He did not say that East Jerusalem is an occupied area. He did not say that East Jerusalem can be the capital, or should be the capital, of the Palestinians. He – and this is the most dangerous thing – he is dealing with the issue of Jerusalem as it is internal of the Israelis – and it is not.”

SS: “The fact is, he remains the most powerful man in the world – you could perhaps argue about that, China is the rising power – but none the less, Donald Trump when it comes to the Middle East is the most important man in the world. He has made a decision which reflects the fact that, frankly, many Palestinians would now acknowledge; you’ve lost. You have lost in the sense that your interests are never going to be achievable.”

AT: “I do not agree with you totally.”

SS: “You do…in part you do?”

AT: “It is one of the most toughest and difficult areas for the Palestinian people, I agree with that. But we had much more difficult phases in our history…of the Palestinian history. This nation, the Palestinian people, is very much insisting in implementing and achieving his national rights and it is rights of the people under occupation seeking to be free, to be independent, to be sovereign, alongside the state of Israel. And Mr Trump is saying to Palestinians…and to Israelis, you will take it all and to Israelis, you will take nothing. That’s why he has disqualified himself as a broker.”

SS: “But I suppose what I’m wondering is what you as an Arab – and let’s not forget, you’re an Israeli citizen, you serve in the Israeli Knesset, the Israeli parliament, you represent the interests of the Arab Israeli population in Israel. I wonder what you make of the reaction from Hamas leaders like Ismail Haniyeh saying things like, you know, ‘we would not allow Trump’s declaration to pass even if we lose our heads in the process’. All the talk of a new intifada, all the talk of Palestinians putting their lives on the line to protest, we have been here so many times before. Is there not now a weary resignation that says to you, in the privacy of your own mind, there is no point anymore to this sort of talk of laying down our lives, new Intifadas. It’s gone.”

AT: “I am representing the Arab Palestinian minority in Israel. We are part of the Palestinian people. There are three parts: Palestinians inside Israel, Palestinians in ’67 areas and Palestinians in the diaspora. But we are also citizens of the State of Israel.”

SS: “That’s right.”

AT: “We are supporting Palestinians self-determination and this right is not negotiable. And we are, as citizens also, saying in the Knesset, from the podium, I am saying in Arabic, in English, in Hebrew that we are promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace. We are not supporting violence – we said it in the past always – I am supporting nonviolent popular resistance. It succeeded in the last year when the magnometers [metal detectors] were put in the Al Aqsa Mosque and it succeeded when the church closed…the church because the government official tried to impose taxes on the Christian church in Jerusalem.”

Sackur provided no context to either of Tibi’s examples, meaning that audiences remained unaware that metal detectors were not “put in the Al Aqsa Mosque” at all but at the entrance to Temple Mount following a terror attack at the site by three Arab-Israelis. Neither were they told that the “taxes” are not “on the Christian church” but on church-owned properties that are not used for worship – just as in the UK.

Neither did he question Tibi as to how his claim that “we are not supporting violence” squares with the fact that members of his Knesset list paid a condolence visit to the families of terrorists in 2016.

Sackur then brought up the Ahed Tamimi case – but failed to inform BBC audiences that the charges against her include incitement to violence: again a relevant topic given Tibi’s claim to support exclusively non-violent protest.

SS: “Yeah, one could say it is easy for you to talk about protests; the usual words in the Knesset. But if you live in the occupied West Bank, the reality of protest is much more dangerous. I mean we have in our minds perhaps right now the case of Ahed Tamimi – the young girl, teenage girl, in the West Bank village who struck out at an Israeli officer because she was so angry at what the Israeli troops were doing in and around her village. She is now in a court facing serious charges and may well end up in prison. You know, it is easy for you as an Arab-Israeli to say this but much more difficult for protesters in the West Bank not to jeopardise their own security in this call for civil disobedience.”

AT: “First of all I am accompanying Ahed Tamimi in her military court. She’s courageous…”

SS: “You can walk away at the end of the day. She can’t.”

The second half of the interview will be discussed in part two of this post. 

 

 

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part one

As we have already seen, UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness gave two interviews on the same topic to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday‘ on January 17th that were aired in three of the show’s six editions.

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part one

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part two

An additional interviewee brought in to discuss the story of US aid donations to UNRWA on the same programme on that day was Mustafa Barghouti.

Listeners heard presenters Karnie Sharp and Paul Hawkins introduce the item as follows (from 00:37 here): [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Sharp: “But let’s go to our top story this hour. It’s the decision by the United States to withhold millions of dollars in aid funding for the united relief agency for Palestinians known as UNRWA which is the UN Relief and Works Agency.”

Hawkins: “The Trump administration has sent $60 million to keep the refugee agency operating but it’s decided to withhold the remainder of the $125 million donation and it wants other countries to pay more. Speaking at a news conference, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was worried by the decision.”

Gutteres [recording]: “I am very concerned and I strongly hope that in the end it will be possible for the United States to maintain the funding of UNRWA in which the US has a very important share. UNRWA is not a Palestinian institution. UNRWA is a UN institution created by a UN resolution and UNRWA is providing vital services to the Palestinian refugees both in the occupied territories and in Jordan, in Syria and in Lebanon.”

Sharp [01:42]: “Let’s now talk to Dr Mustafa Barghouti who is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. […] What’s your reaction or the Palest…the reaction of the Palestinian Authority to this news?”

Barghouti: “Well this decision by the Trump administration is another irresponsible, reckless and harmful decision which is…which represents in our opinion an act of collective punishment against millions of Palestinian refugees who have been victims of occupation and the policy of Israeli ethnic cleansing that displaced them from their country in 1948 and they are also still subjected to the policy of apartheid and racial discrimination by Israeli occupation. It’s an act of collective punishment against people who will now suffer deprivation, who will lose education, who will lose healthcare. It’s a punishment of elderly people, people who are disabled, who have very basic humanitarian needs and we don’t understand why the United States continue to be complicit in Israeli policies. We don’t understand why they are using this irresponsible and inhuman act to punish Palestinians collectively and in our opinion it’s also a political decision. Clearly they are fulfilling Israeli wishes to liquidate the rights of the Palestinian refugees to return to the homes they were displaced from in 1948.”

Sharp made no effort whatsoever to challenge the falsehood that Palestinians were displaced from “their country” in 1948, the description of that territory as ‘occupied’ or the lies of “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid and racial discrimination”. Neither did she bother to clarify to listeners that Barghouti’s advocated ‘right of return’ is a scenario that any serious commentator knows will not happen. She did, however, challenge Barghouti’s description of the US decision as a “punishment”.

Sharp: “OK Doctor, but they have made it clear that it isn’t a punishment and it’s not a complete withdrawal of all the funds: it’s half of it.”

Barghouti: “The UNRWA United Nations agency is suffering already from a big deficit of its budget and when you cut off $65 million from their budget, which is more than 50% of the American contribution, it means you are driving this agency into bankruptcy. We are talking…they are already laying off doctors, nurses, teachers. You are talking about millions of Palestinian refugees not only in Palestine itself – in the West Bank and Gaza – but Palestinian refugees in Syria, which is suffering from terrible humanitarian situation, in Lebanon, in Jordan. Those children will be deprived now from the possibility of accessing education. The people who are suffering from diseases will be deprived from getting their medications and so many people will suffer.”

Sharp: “Sure.”

Barghouti: “Some people will lose their shelters. So it is an act of collective punishment against people who are…who are not victim…who are not…who have not done anything wrong.”

Sharp: “Sure but let’s look at it from the United States point of view. They are the biggest contributor here. They’re asking for reforms and they say we don’t believe that taking care of other nations and other people have to rest solely on the shoulders of the United States. That’s a fair comment, isn’t it?”

Barghouti: “No because if they are talking about reform, why now? Why they are not talking about reform for instance of World Health Organisation or food prog…food [unintelligible] or any other UN agency? No; these are political decisions that Mr Trump is taking to punish Palestinians and to force Palestinians to take wrong political decisions that affect their future. In other words Mr Trump is only fulfilling the wishes of Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, who’s trying to kill the issue of Jerusalem, to kill the issue of refugees and practically to block any possibility for future negotiations and for peace in this place. This action by the United States government will only create more instability in this region and you are talking about six million [sic] refugees who are deprived, who have suffered in their lives for six…for 70 years from being displaced by Israeli ethnic cleansing and now they are being punished by the government of the United States.”

Once again making no effort to challenge Barghouti’s “ethnic cleansing” lie or his misrepresentation of the number of people registered as refugees, Sharp closed the interview there.

In the next edition of the programme, listeners heard an edited version of that interview (from 01:22 here) in which – once again – Barghouti’s falsehoods were amplified without any challenge whatsoever.  

Barghouti: “This decision by the Trump administration is another irresponsible, reckless and harmful decision which is…which represents in our opinion an act of collective punishment against millions of Palestinian refugees who have been victims of occupation and the policy of Israeli ethnic cleansing that displaced them from their country in 1948 and they are also still subjected to the policy of apartheid and racial discrimination by Israeli occupation. It’s an act of collective punishment against people who will now suffer deprivation, who will lose education, who will lose healthcare. And we don’t understand why the United States continue to be complicit in Israeli policies.”

Moreover, Barghouti was brought back for yet another interview on the same topic in a later edition of the programme which will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part one

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part two

BBC News report on UNRWA funding story omits relevant background