Inaccurate framing of Corbyn remarks continues on BBC Radio 4

As we saw previously when, on August 28th, the New Statesman published an interview with the former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks in which he addressed comments made by the current UK Labour party leader in 2013, listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard inaccurate framing of that story repeatedly promoted by the BBC political correspondent Tom Barton.

The same editorial policy was evident in the news bulletin heard by listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ on August 28th (from 02:30 here). [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Newsreader: “Labour has reacted angrily to allegations by the former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks that Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic. Lord Sacks also described comments about a group of British Zionists made by Mr Corbyn before he became Labour leader as the most offensive by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell in the 1960s. Here’s our political correspondent Tom Barton.”

Barton: “Lord Sacks was referring to a speech Jeremy Corbyn gave in 2013 in which he spoke about a group of Zionists who, he claimed, didn’t understand English irony. The former Chief Rabbi told the New Statesman that was the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech in 1968. He said the comments implied Jews were not fully British and described Jeremy Corbyn as an antisemite. Labour said comparing its leader with the race-baiting Enoch Powell was absurd and offensive. The party added that Mr Corbyn had used the word Zionist in the accurate political sense to describe a particular group of pro-Israel activists and not as a synonym or code for Jewish people.”

As noted here previously, by the time Barton was presenting that report he had been provided with a transcript of edited parts of Corbyn’s speech which showed that he was not talking about “a particular group” of people but about British Zionist Jews. He had also been told by the man who recorded Corbyn’s 2013 speech that as far as he knew, he was the only ‘pro-Israel activist’ present. Nevertheless – and even as it was obvious that Rabbi Lord Sacks’ comments were based on the fact that he did not buy into the notion that Corbyn was referring to a “particular group” present at a particular event – Barton continued to amplify the team Corbyn framing which hinders audience understanding of those comments.

Later on in the same programme (from 22:00 here) listeners heard an item described in its synopsis as follows:

“We discuss the latest row over Jeremy Corbyn – the former Chief Rabbi has described some of the Labour leader’s remarks as the most offensive made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech.”

Presenter Chris Mason began by playing a recording of part of Powell’s 1968 ‘rivers of blood’ speech followed by a recording from the 2013 speech by the person he described as “the then obscure Labour back bencher Jeremy Corbyn”. Listeners next heard a reading of some of Lord Sacks’ related comments including:

“It was divisive, hateful and like Powell’s speech it undermines the existence of an entire group of British citizens by depicting them as essentially alien.”

Declaring that “we’re going to explore both sides of the argument”, Mason went on to introduce his first contributor as “Jewish, a journalist and a member of the Labour Party”. He did not however inform listeners of the relevant fact that Michael Segalov is a Corbyn supporter and apparently a member of Momentum.

After Segalov had tried to persuade listeners that Corbyn’s 2013 comments were “a joke he tried to make” he absurdly went on to claim that:

Segalov: “They came – let’s be clear – at a time when Israel-Palestine wasn’t at the heart of political debate in this country.”

Segalov added:

Segalov [24:10]: “…I don’t think Jeremy would have used those words today but to compare them and to conflate them with, you know, the real abhorrent racism that’s expressed in the ‘rivers of blood’ speech is frankly [a] disservice to that racism that really existed then.”

Sidestepping that signposting of antisemitism as not ‘real’ racism, Mason asked:

Mason: “What about that other point in the line from Jeremy Corbyn? Yes, there was the argument about the use of the word Zionist but there was also that line about English irony – and ultimately belonging – casting in the eyes of some Jewish people as outsiders; as somehow not properly English or British.”

Listeners again heard Segalov try to present Corbyn’s remarks as a joke fallen flat – “it wasn’t funny” and “it was clumsy language” – before he went on to claim that “he wasn’t casting an aspersion on all Jewish people”.

Mason did not bother to clarify to listeners that Corbyn’s reference to “Zionists” in fact describes the majority of British Jews before Segalov was given a platform from which to promote the claim that there is a need to “draw distinct lines between Judaism and Jewishness”.

Segalov: “And it sometimes feels that people on both sides are responsible because we don’t really draw those lines. There are people in the Labour Party, on the Left, who fail to do those things. They conflate Judaism and Zionism. But frankly many of our Jewish leaders do the same thing too. Rabbi Sacks does that in his interview to some extent. Look at our current Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis who wrote in the Telegraph a few years ago and saying those things are one and the same Judaism and Zionism. I mean we deserve better; Jewish people deserve better and Palestinian people do too.”

In the article cited (not for the first time) by Segalov, Ephraim Mirvis wrote:

“Zionism is a belief in the right to Jewish self-determination in a land that has been at the centre of the Jewish world for more than 3,000 years. One can no more separate it from Judaism than separate the City of London from Great Britain.

Open a Jewish daily prayer book used in any part of the world and Zionism will leap out at you. The innumerable references to the land of Israel are inescapable and demonstrative. Throughout our collective history we have yearned for a chance to determine our own future, to revive an ancient language and return to rejoice in our love for this tiny sliver of land. Zionism is a movement celebrated by people right across the political spectrum, all over the world, and requires no endorsement or otherwise of the particular policies of any Israeli Government at any time.” 

Listeners heard Segalov go on to claim that in order to “deal with” the issue of antisemitism in the British Labour Party there “has to be a concerted effort by the Jewish community and by the Labour Party” before again promoting the notion that there needs to be a conversation held “in the Jewish community and the Labour Party too: one that says  we need to tackle antisemitism whenever it raises its ugly head but also says Judaism is a religion, Zionism and Israel are in politics” and going on to claim that Rabbi Sacks “conflated those two things”. Segalov proceeded to refer to another part of Lord Sacks’ New Statesman interview which has nothing to do with the Labour antisemitism story, asserting “that level of ignorance does no service to debate”.

Radio 4 listeners next heard Mason read out a Labour Party statement in which it was once again claimed that “Jeremy Corbyn described a particular group of pro-Israel activists as Zionists in the accurate political sense – not as a synonym or code for Jewish people”.

The second contributor to this item was Jonathan Goldstein of the Jewish Leadership Council who was first asked by Mason:

Mason: “Was Lord Sacks exaggerating?”

Two of Mason’s three subsequent questions presented clear signposting to listeners.

Mason: “Yeah but being precise about this intervention tonight and that comparison with the ‘rivers of blood’ speech.”

Mason: “In specific terms though, is the comparison with the ‘rivers of blood’ speech fair? Not least because Enoch Powell was a shadow minister at the time; he knew his message would be heard by a national audience and he knew it has a capacity to offend. Mr Corbyn didn’t.”

Unless the BBC’s domestic audiences are given both an accurate portrayal of the content and circumstances of Corbyn’s 2013 speech and a critical view of his supporters’ statements after it came to light, they will clearly not be able to “engage fully” with that issue or understand the ensuing criticism of the Labour leader.

However, as Radio 4’s reporting of this latest story shows, the BBC’s funding public continues to be denied that full range of information.

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BBC R4 news reporting of Corbyn ‘irony’ story to domestic audiences

On August 23rd a video emerged of the UK Labour Party leader speaking at a 2013 event hosted by the Hamas-linked Palestinian Return Centre in which he claimed that British Zionists:

“…clearly have two problems. One is that they don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, don’t understand English irony either.””

The Jewish Chronicle reported on the same day that a Labour spokesman had claimed that:

“Jeremy is totally opposed to all forms of antisemitism and is determined to drive it out from society. At this event, he was referring to a group of pro-Israel activists misunderstanding and then criticising the Palestinian Ambassador [sic] for a speech at a separate event about the occupation of the West Bank.”

As shown by the part of Corbyn’s speech which preceded those remarks but was edited out of the video, the claim that he was referring to a specific “group of pro-Israel activists” who ‘misunderstood’ a speech given several days earlier is highly questionable.

Nevertheless, listeners to BBC Radio 4 on August 24th heard uncritical amplification of team Corbyn’s ‘explanations’ while the links between the event organisers and Hamas was erased from audience view and no effort whatsoever was made to explain to the BBC’s domestic audiences why Corbyn’s comments were objectionable.

Six O’Clock News (from 07:44), BBC Radio 4, August 24th:

Newsreader: “The Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has said that Jeremy Corby’s comments that British Zionists don’t understand English irony have been taken out of context. A number of Labour MPs have strongly criticised Mr Corbyn for the remarks which he made at a Palestinian conference in 2013. Mr McDonnell said the Labour leader had devoted his life to securing peace in the Middle East. Our political correspondent Jonathan Blake has this report.”

Blake: “The comments in question were made by Jeremy Corbyn during a speech at the Palestinian Return Centre, which represents Palestinian refugees, when he was a back bench Labour MP. Mr Corbyn referred to a disagreement between a group of people he described as Zionists and the Palestinian representative to the UK, Manuel Hassassian, after he spoke at an event in the Houses of Parliament.”

Recording Corbyn 2013: “This was dutifully recorded by the thankfully silent Zionists who were in the audience on that occasion, and then came up and berated him afterwards for what he’d said. They clearly have two problems. One is that they don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, don’t understand English irony either.”

Blake: “The Labour MP Luciana Berger said Mr Corbyn’s comments were inexcusable and made her feel unwelcome in her own party. She said that she had lived in Britain all her life and didn’t need any lessons in history or irony. Several of her parliamentary colleagues supported her but the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said Mr Corbyn’s comments had been taken out of context.”

Listeners then heard an edited version of part of an interview with McDonnell which had been aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme (from 02:43:39 here) earlier in the day.

McDonnell: “In certain contexts certain phrases are appropriate. To take them out of context is unacceptable and I think is not helping issues. It’s exacerbating the issue. Where we want to get to now is let’s recognize there is antisemitism in our society. Let’s have a real serious debate about the actions needed to tackle that antisemitism wherever it’s displayed.”

Blake: “In a report into antisemitism within the Labour Party in 2016, the Labour peer Lady Chakrabarti said that the term Zionist was used by some as a euphemism for Jew and that it should be used carefully. The party’s code of conduct states that such language may otherwise provide evidence of antisemitic intent. A spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn said he was totally opposed to all forms of antisemitism, adding that he was referring to a group of pro-Israel activists misunderstanding and then criticising the Palestinian ambassador.”

The World Tonight (from 03:38), BBC Radio 4, August 24th:

Newsreader: “The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has denied using the term Zionist to refer to Jewish people. He was recorded making the remarks at a Palestinian conference five years ago. This evening it’s emerged that Mr Corbyn has been reported to the Parliamentary standards watchdog by a Conservative MP in connection with the comments. With the details, here’s our political correspondent Jonathan Blake.”

Blake: “In a speech in 2013 Jeremy Corbyn referred to a group of people who had disagreed with the Palestinian representative to the UK after a speech he’d made at an event in the Palace of Westminster as British Zionists. He said that they had two problems. One is they don’t want to study history and secondly, he said, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony either. Several Labour MPs criticised Mr Corbyn’s remarks. In a statement he said he used the term Zionist in the accurate political sense and not as a euphemism for Jewish people, adding that he’s now more careful using the term Zionists because it has been increasingly hijacked by antisemites as code for Jews.”

Midnight News (from 07:40), BBC Radio 4, August 25th:

Newsreader: “The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has defended comments he made about Zionists when he was a back bencher five years ago. A Conservative MP has reported Mr Corbyn to the Parliamentary standards watchdog after it emerged that he told a Palestinian conference that British Zionists did not understand English irony. Mr Corbyn has denied using the term to refer to all Jewish people. With the details, here’s our political correspondent Jonathan Blake.”

Blake: “For months Jeremy Corbyn has faced criticism that he has not done enough to tackle antisemitism within the Labour Party. Now he has defended his own actions after several Labour MPs spoke out against comments he made during a speech in 2013. Mr Corbyn was addressing a group representing Palestinian refugees and described a group of what he called British Zionists berating the Palestinian representative to the UK after he made a speech at the Palace of Westminster. He said the group had two problems: they didn’t want to study history and didn’t understand English irony either. In a statement the Labour leader said he’d used the term Zionist in the accurate political sense and not as a euphemism for Jewish people, adding that he was now more careful because the term had increasingly been hijacked by antisemites as code for Jews. That is something which the Labour peer Lady Chakrabarti warned against in a review of antisemitism within the Labour Party in 2016.”

As we see, the focus of all three of those news reports was amplification of the Labour claim that Corbyn’s remarks had been misunderstood, with no attempt made to explain to the BBC’s domestic listeners why they were so widely seen as offensive and antisemitic.

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The BBC uncritically amplifies Corbyn’s PFLP and ‘platform’ denials

Four days after he attended the controversial wreath-laying ceremony in Tunis in October 2014, Jeremy Corbyn had an article published in the ‘Morning Star’ in which he described that event, an additional one and the conference which had preceded them.

“A one-day conference was held under the auspices of the Centre for Strategic Studies for North Africa, just north of Tunis, near Carthage, attended by all Palestinian groups. […]

The conference was welcomed by the President of Tunisia Dr Moncef Marzouki and heard opening speeches from Palestinian groups including Fatah, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine as well as solidarity from the Turkish parliament and international support. […]

In my own speech to the conference there was great enthusiasm for the prospects of a British parliamentary vote on October 13 on Palestinian statehood.”

In other words, Corbyn was fully aware of the fact that members of at least two proscribed terrorist organisations – Hamas and the PFLP – were at that conference and was perfectly happy to share a platform with them.

However, when The Times published a photograph of Corbyn standing next to PFLP leader Maher al Taher at that wreath-laying ceremony, the BBC’s domestic audiences heard reports which made no mention of Corbyn’s 2014 article in the ‘Morning Star’.

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on August 16th were told (from 23:30 here) that: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “Jeremy Corbyn has told BBC News he didn’t know anything about the background of a senior figure in a banned Palestinian militant organisation that he appeared alongside in 2014. He shared a platform with Maher al Taher in Tunisia. Our political correspondent Susana Mendonça reports.”

Mendonça: “Maher al Taher is a senior figure of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine which has been linked to a terror attack on a synagogue complex in West Jerusalem in 2014, where a British rabbi was among those killed. It’s emerged that the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was pictured alongside him at a memorial event at a cemetery in Tunis as part of a Palestinian rights conference. Mr Corbyn has been coming under criticism for attending a wreath-laying there which took place near memorials for people who were accused of having links to a terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympic Games. But he has said that he was there to honour innocent people killed in a 1985 Israeli airstrike and has denied having any knowledge about who he was sharing a platform with.”

Recording Corbyn: “I don’t share platforms with terrorists. I don’t believe in killing people. I have attended memorial events for those that have died in the sadness of all these conflicts and that is my position.”

Mendonça: “The Labour Party has complained to the press watchdog IPSO about newspaper coverage of the visit to Tunisia.”

The PFLP was not merely “linked” to the Har Nof terror attack (which the BBC refrained from describing as such at the time) in which six people were murdered: it claimed responsibility for it.

Once again BBC audiences were not told that the context to Corbyn’s statements is the fact that the 1985 Israeli airstrike on the PLO HQ in Tunis came in response to a Palestinian terror attack against Israeli civilians in Cyprus.

On the same evening listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ were informed by newsreader Neil Nunes (from 05:23 here) that:

Nunes: “Jeremy Corbyn said he didn’t know anything about the background of a senior figure in a Palestinian militant organisation that he appeared alongside in 2014. The Labour leader attended a memorial event in Tunisia with Maher al Taher from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The group has been linked to an attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem in 2014; a British rabbi was among those killed. Mr Corbyn rejected any suggestion that he condoned violence.”

Recording Corbyn: “I don’t share platforms with terrorists. I don’t believe in killing people. I have attended memorial events for those that have died in the sadness of all these conflicts and that is my position.”

Interviewer: “And the person they’re talking about: did you knowingly share a platform…”

Corbyn [interrupts]: “No, I was unaware of any of his background.”

Once again the BBC refrained from informing audiences that the PFLP has not just “been linked to” the Har Nof attack but actually issued a formal statement stating that the two terrorists belonged to its ranks.

The same omission appeared in an article published on the BBC News website’s ‘UK Politics’ page on August 16th under the headline “Jeremy Corbyn ‘unaware’ of militant group figure“.

“Jeremy Corbyn has said he did not know that a man he stood next to at a wreath-laying ceremony was a senior member of a militant Palestinian group.

Maher Taher, of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), was pictured alongside the Labour leader at a 2014 event in Tunis.

The PLFP was later linked to an attack on an Israeli synagogue. The US and EU consider it to be a terrorist group.

Mr Corbyn told the BBC: “I was unaware of any of his background.””

Readers of that report also found the quotes from Corbyn promoted in the above two news bulletins.

“I don’t share platforms with terrorists,” Mr Corbyn said. “I don’t believe in killing people.

“I have attended memorial events for those that have died in the sadness of all of these conflicts, and that is my position.”

Failing yet again to provide audiences with the relevant context, the report continued:

“Mr Corbyn has said that his attendance at the wreath-laying was to honour innocent people killed in a 1985 Israeli air strike on the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) headquarters in Tunis.”

The report went on to provide readers with a link to a profile of the PFLP which was first published by the BBC following the Har Nof attack. Nearly four years on, that profile – previously discussed here – is still illustrated with an inaccurate photograph and has still not been updated to reflect the correct number of victims murdered in that attack.

“The PLFP was formed as a resistance movement after the occupation of the West Bank by Israel in 1967. It is treated as a terrorist organisation by the US and European Union.”

It is therefore unsurprising to see that this article also gives readers an inaccurate account of the number of people killed in that terror attack.

“In November 2014, two members of the group armed with axes stormed a synagogue complex in West Jerusalem and killed four rabbis – including British-born Avraham Shmuel Goldberg. According to reports at the time, it was not clear how involved the PFLP leadership had been in the attack.”

As we see, while domestic BBC audiences saw and heard multiple uncritical amplifications of Corbyn’s denials concerning Maher al Taher and his disingenuous claim that he does not share platforms with terrorists, the BBC made no effort to inform them of Corbyn’s October 2014 ‘Morning Star’ article in which he clearly stated that he had appeared at an event together with representatives of two proscribed terrorist organisations.

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Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part two

In part one of this post we looked at how the story of the UK Labour Party leader’s participation in an event in Tunisia in 2014 that had been the subject of a report in a British newspaper three days earlier was presented to the BBC’s domestic audience on BBC Radio 4 on the evening of August 13th.

Later the same evening the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ also aired a long item on the same story:

“Jeremy Corbyn attacked by Benjamin Netanyahu — over laying a wreath in memory of Palestinians suspected of 1972 Munich massacre.”

In her introduction to the item (from 16:28 here) presenter Ritula Shah managed to twist a story that first emerged in 2017 and was again taken up by a British newspaper in recent days into an ‘accusation’ from the Israeli prime minister. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Shah: “The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized Jeremy Corbyn and accused him of laying a wreath on the grave of one of those behind the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972 in which 11 Israeli athletes died. A photo of Mr Corbyn holding a wreath at the Palestinian Martyrs’ Cemetery in Tunisia in 2014 was published by the Daily Mail. The events of 1972 shocked the world. Here’s a flavour of how the BBC reported the event at the time.”

After listeners had heard an archive recording, Shah went on to read out Corbyn’s Tweet:

Shah: “Well tonight the Labour leader’s responded to the Israeli prime minister’s statement in a Tweet saying ‘at Netanyahu’s claims about my actions and words are false. What deserves unequivocal condemnation is the killing of over 160 Palestinian protesters in Gaza by Israeli forces since March, including dozens of children’.”

Listeners were not provided with any context to Corbyn’s ‘whataboutery’: the fact that a significant proportion of those dubbed ‘protesters’ by Corbyn were linked to terror factions and killed during violent rioting and attacks was not clarified by Shah before she continued.

Shah: “In an interview earlier today Mr Corbyn was asked to respond to the wreath-laying claim.”

Listeners then heard a recording of part of that interview.

Recording Corbyn: “A wreath was indeed laid by some of those who attended the conference for those who were killed in Paris in 1992.

Interviewer: “Were you involved in that wreath laying?”

Corbyn: “I was present when it was laid. I don’t think I was actually involved in it. I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who’s died in every terrorist incident everywhere because we have to end it. You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence. The only way you pursue peace is a cycle of dialogue.”

Shah: And that reference to Paris in 1992 by Jeremy Corbyn refers to the assassination of Atef Bseiso who was a senior member of the PLO who was allegedly killed by the Israeli secret service in revenge for the Munich attack.”

JVL protest at the BBC, 7/8/18. Photo credit: @The Red Roar

Shah then introduced her sole interviewee – a member of a pro-Corbyn fringe group called ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ which – despite the fact since its formation last year, BBC audiences have seen its representatives interviewed and quoted in dozens of items of BBC content – just the previous week organised a demonstration outside the BBC’s main London building to protest “the BBC’s failure to report fairly and impartially about the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party”.

Shah; “Well joining me now is Glyn Secker, secretary of the pro-Corbyn group Jewish Voice for Labour. […] do you think that reference to Paris in 1992 is essentially an attempt to distract from Bseiso’s involvement in the 1972 Munich Olympics attack?”

Radio 4 listeners first heard the unsubstantiated claim that the Daily Mail had doctored the photographs.

Secker: “Yes, I mean the commemoration of the Munich…of the deaths in Munich…ahm…when it is reported by the Daily Mail it is quite devious because yes, they have a picture of Jeremy Corbyn holding a wreath and it’s in that cemetery but actually they’ve switched – and you can see from the analysis of the photographs – they’ve switched the graves around. There’s one picture of him standing at a different grave – not the one where they were laying the wreath – and I think that must have been the grave of the terrorist. Jeremy Corbyn is standing there with his hands in his pocket, obviously not being very respectful.”

Shah [interrupts]: But he says himself, but he says himself ‘I was present when it was laid’ so that suggests very clearly that he was there, the photographs appear to show he was there, he’s not denying he was there. What’s the difference between being present and laying a wreath? If you’re in a place, you’re present, there, you’re taking part.”

Next Secker conjured up a hypothetical situation to add to his photo doctoring conspiracy theory:

Secker: “Well he’s not…well he wasn’t…well if you’re with a group of people, you’re there as their guest and they then say please will you walk over to this side of the cemetery and you follow them and then you find that they’re laying a wreath and you can see the wreath on this grave in the photograph but as I say, Jeremy Corbyn is standing there with his hands in his pockets – not a mark of respect for that grave – so I think what’s happened is the photograph of him holding the wreath is actually cropped at the bottom so you can’t see the grave and they’ve taken the picture where he was laying a wreath to the…to all the victims and they’ve switched it and made it look like something other.”

Listeners then heard irrelevant linkage of the issue of the UK Labour Party leader honouring terrorists to the topic of antisemitism.

Secker: “Now as Jews we do not take instruction from the Daily Mail about antisemitism. They backed Mosley in the 1930s…”

Shah: “But – hang on a minute – are you accusing the Daily Mail of antisemitism?”

Secker: “Ah well, I’m accusing them certainly historically of antisemitism – yes. They backed Mosley. They published in 1938 an article saying the country was being flooded by Jews.”

Pointing out that the Daily Mail was not there to reply to Secker’s allegations, Shah tried to drag the conversation back onto topic.

Shah: “I’m quite confused by the answer that you just gave and I dare say other people are. But Jeremy Corbyn is not denying that he was present at this wreath laying, that he was in this cemetery in Tunis. What is the difference between that and actually…he may not physically have literally laid the wreath but he was there.”

Yet again listeners had to listen to Secker’s hypothetical speculations.

Secker: “But if he’s been asked to walk over by his guests [sic] to the other side of the…of the cemetery – which looks very clearly as if that’s what happened – and he goes and stands with them at the grave of this terrorist and he stands there with his hands in his pockets – not marking respect at all to that person – that speaks volumes for what he was thinking.”

Shah: “Why does it matter so much that he had his hands in his pocket? He was there.”

Secker: “Well I tell you, if he was visiting my father’s grave and he stood there with his hands in the pockets I would be very offended.”

Shah: “So you think there is a difference between being present with your hand in your pocket but not actually involved?”

Secker: “Yes, he’s not got a wreath. He wasn’t laying a wreath at that grave. He was laying a wreath at the other grave.”

Shah: “Do you think those distinctions are so nuanced as to be almost irrelevant?”

Secker: “No they’re not irrelevant because the way the Daily Mail presents it is that he’s laying a wreath to a terrorist and he wasn’t and he said he wasn’t. That’s a big story and he’s denying it and I think that’s correct.”

After those four minutes of discussion concerning Jeremy Corbyn’s pockets, Ritula Shah then gave Secker the cue to irrelevantly opine on Israel. It would of course at that point have been appropriate for her to clarify to listeners that the speaker they were hearing is not just a member of a “pro-Corbyn group” but also an anti-Israel campaigner who captained an attempt to breach the naval blockade which prevents Hamas smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip and was briefly suspended by the Labour Party in March due to his membership in a secret Facebook group where antisemitic and anti-Israel content is rife.

Shah: “Benjamin Netanyahu says that this deserves unequivocal condemnation from everyone. Why does Mr Corbyn then say that’s false?”

Secker: “Well because he didn’t do it and therefore there was nothing for him to be condemned for. I would condemn Netanyahu for welcoming eh…the…ah…Orban the president [sic] of Hungary to his…to his country. He’s the leader of an extreme right-wing organization. I would condemn Netanyahu for making a deal with the Polish prime minister that the Poles are no longer responsible for the Holocaust. We lost family in the Holocaust.”

Shah: “Do you understand why this is so difficult for Jeremy Corbyn? It’s simply another, another allegation in a situation where he’s constantly being accused of antisemitism…”

Secker: “Yes.”

Shah: “…of acts which can be interpreted as antisemitic.”

Secker: “Yes, it’s horrific for him. I’ve spoken on the same platform as Jeremy. I know him personally. There’s not an anti-Semitic or racist bone in his body. He’s a…he’s very strongly anti-racist. And this has been whipped up as a way of silencing criticism of Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinians and is being used to bring him down politically.”

With that dose of the Livingstone Formulation Ritula Shah ended the item.

However, that was not the last that Radio 4 listeners heard from Glyn Secker: his Livingstone Formulation promotion was also featured two hours later in a report by Tom Barton aired in the station’s ‘Midnight News’ bulletin (from 00:54 here):

Barton: “Saying that he didn’t think he was involved hasn’t satisfied Mr Corbyn’s critics. The Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger said that being present was the same as being involved. But the labour leader’s supporters say he’s being treated unfairly. Glyn Secker, the secretary of the pro-Corbyn group ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’.

Secker: “Yes, it’s horrific for him. I’ve spoken on the same platform as Jeremy. I know him personally. There’s not an anti-Semitic or racist bone in his body. He’s a…he’s very strongly anti-racist. And this has been whipped up as a way of silencing criticism of Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinians and is being used to bring him down politically.”

Barton: “As the Labour leadership tries to bring the wider row over antisemitism under control, the intervention of the Israeli prime minister isn’t going to make that task any easier.”

As we see, on a day when the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition – and a potential prime minister – had admitted to having taken part in a ceremony honouring terrorists while participating in a conference together with members of additional terrorist organisations, the best the BBC could do for its British audiences was to present them with nearly seven minutes of discussion about Jeremy Corbyn’s pockets, conspiracy theories about doctored photos and irrelevant anti-Israel smears from an inadequately introduced anti-Israel activist.

Related Articles:

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Over a third of BBC website’s Corbyn wreath laying report allocated to denials

BBC News gives free rein to anti-Israel campaigner’s falsehoods

 

 

BBC portrayal of US decision to leave UNHRC – part two

In part one of this post we saw how the BBC News website’s portrayal of the June 19th US announcement that it would leave the UN Human Rights Council failed to clarify to audiences that the decision – which had been on the cards for a year – came about because the UNHRC did not carry out what the US considers to be “essential reforms”.

The same story was the topic of an item aired in the June 19th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’. Presenter Ritula Shah introduced it (from 22:35 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Shah: “Well a body that might have been charged with examining Italy’s plans for the Roma is the United Nations Human Rights Council and in the last few minutes the United States has announced that it’s pulling out of that organisation. The US ambassador to the UN is Nikki Haley.”

Listeners then heard a recording of part of the statement made by the US Ambassador at the press conference at which the US decision was announced.

Haley: “…the United States is officially withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council. In doing so, I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from human rights commitments; on the contrary, we take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.”

Shah: “The mission of the UNHRC is to promote and protect human rights around the world. But when it was founded in 2006 the Bush administration declined to join, complaining that it included repressive states. The US has also repeatedly accused the body of being anti-Israel. Washington relented under President Obama and the US has been among the 47 countries elected to the council three times with the last 3-year term beginning in 2016.”

Remarkably the person chosen by ‘The World Tonight’ to comment on that story was the head of a political NGO with a long-standing anti-Israel bias who himself is infamous for having something of an obsession – particularly visible on Twitter – with that country. ‘Human Rights Watch’ had put out a press release concerning the US decision prior to this programme going on air and some of its themes were recycled in the Radio 4 item.

Shah: “Well Kenneth Roth is the executive director of the international human rights organisation ‘Human Rights Watch’ and he joins me now. [….] Kenneth Roth; Nikki Haley says the US hasn’t retreated from its human rights commitments. What difference then will its departure make – from the council – make?”

Roth: “Well I mean I wish it were true that the US hadn’t retreated from its commitments. I don’t see a lot of effort to stop, you know, Syrian slaughter of civilians, to stop the Saudis from indiscriminately bombing and starving civilians in Yemen, to defend the Rohingya who were ethnically cleansed from Myanmar. So you know I would quarrel with her there but in terms of the UN Human Rights Council, you know the US seems to be making two points. One is that some abusive states sit on the council – which is true. And that’s really the fault of different regions of the world who nominate them and then don’t give the UN General Assembly members the choice. They basically say ‘here are the same number of candidates as openings: take ’em or leave ’em’. And you have no choice but to take them.”

Shah: “So among the current members: the DRC, Egypt, China – all of which could be criticized for their human rights record.”

Roth’s agenda then became apparent:

Roth: “Absolutely. But even given that, the Human Rights Council has done a lot of good. It has actually done very serious investigations and condemnations in places like Syria, Yemen, North Korea, Myanmar. The problem is, it also criticises Israel and what this is really about…”

Shah [interrupts]: “But it’s a bit more than just criticising Israel, isn’t it? Israel is the only country that actually has a permanent space on its [the UNHRC] agenda – so-called Agenda 7 – which stipulates that alleged Israeli human rights abuses in the Palestinian conflict should be reviewed every council meeting.”

Roth: “That’s true and that’s something that the US has complained about a lot. But the truth is the US votes against resolutions criticising Israel even under other agenda items that apply to everybody. So it’s a bit hypocritical. Yes, they can complain about Agenda Item 7 but it never criticises Israel’s human rights abuses under this administration.”

Shah: “But it is strange that in that sense the US isn’t the only country that’s pointed this out. Even Ban Ki Moon the former UN Secretary General and the EU have pointed out that singling out Israel when there are human rights abuses all over the world is strange and slightly undermines the council’s credibility.”

Roth: “Well you know ‘Human Rights Watch’ has pointed this out as well but the real issue is, you know, does the Human Rights Council do more good than harm and it does enormous good in many places around the world.

Roth’s claim that HRW “has pointed this out” is apparently based on previous statements the NGO’s staff such as this one last year from its Geneva director, John Fisher, in which he effectively compared Israel’s human rights record to those of two repressive dictators infamous for murdering their own people:

“Fisher said Israel’s human rights record did warrant Council scrutiny, but the special focus was “a reasonable concern”.

“It is an anomaly that there is a dedicated agenda item in a way that there isn’t for North Korea or Syria or anything else,” he said.”

Roth went on to promote more of the messaging found in his NGO’s press release, even using the same words:

Roth: “But the Trump administration basically has a one-dimensional human rights policy. Ahm…it wants to defend Israel from criticisms above all else. So even given this…ahm…this fault in the council that it has this idiosyncratic stand-alone item for Israel, none the less most governments say we’re gonna work with the council; we can try to amend that Agenda Item but it does a lot of good. But the Trump administration’s in essence saying that we want to undermine the council because it criticises Israel…”

Shah: “Well it is interesting though….”

Roth: “…and the rest of the good work it does can be damned.”

Shah: “Item 7 was inserted after the organisation was formed. Perhaps if some sort of reform of the council to make it more balanced, to take into account the points that you’ve made at the beginning that it also includes countries that actually could be accused of human rights abuses, when actually its formation, its purpose is supposed to defend human rights and demand of its members the highest standards in defending human rights – those issues could have been tackled, couldn’t they?”

Shah failed to inform listeners that the US had been trying for a year to introduce exactly such reforms. Neither was it clarified to audiences that the “reform process” subsequently referred to by Roth is not the same one that the US was promoting or that his organisation – along with others – had actively opposed the US’s proposed reforms.

Roth: “Yes, there’s actually an active reform process underway at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. And the US government was participating in that process until now. Now it’s walking away. So ironically it’s less likely to get any reforms by turning its back on the council but that’s why I don’t think this move is really about reform. This move is about trying to discredit the council because the council criticises Israel and that one-dimensional policy is just fortunately not where the rest of the world is. The rest of the world recognises there’s a need to address serious problems elsewhere in the world as well.”

Ritula Shah closed the item there. Listeners were not informed – as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality require – of the “particular viewpoint” of Ken Roth and Human Rights Watch on Israel despite that being of obvious relevance since his messaging was given an almost unchallenged stage.

And so, listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard a person presented as the head of an authoritative sounding “international human rights organisation” telling them repeatedly that the US withdrawal from the UNHRC is actually “really about” Israel and – as was the case in his organisation’s press release – that because of Israel, human rights in the rest of the world will suffer.  

Related Articles:

BBC portrayal of US decision to leave UNHRC – part one

BBC News website amplifies the NGO echo-chamber

 

BBC continues to promote anti-Israel campaign with ‘ancestral lands’ theme

h/t AM

With the BBC now having produced over a week’s worth of reporting on the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt organised by Hamas and additional terror factions in the Gaza Strip together with foreign Muslim Brotherhood linked activists, we can begin to identify patterns of reporting in the corporation’s multi-platform coverage.

One theme that has been repeatedly evident on a variety of platforms is context-free promotion of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’. BBC audiences have not however been told on what that demand is based, what its aim actually is, what it means for the internationally accepted ‘two-state solution’ or why the people making that demand continue to be categorised as refugees.

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part two

On March 6th a spin-off from that theme appeared: the description of Israel as “ancestral lands” of Palestinian refugees:

BBC reporting on Gaza border rioting continues to avoid core issue

One may have thought that BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality would have prompted the use of terminology such as “what Palestinians see as their ancestral lands” (particularly seeing as only two years of residency in Mandate Palestine is required to meet the UN definition of refugee) but that was not the case in either the written article or in radio reports promoting the same theme.

The March 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included an item (from 29:05 here) billed thus:

“Palestinians say Israeli troops have killed at least six people on Gaza’s border with Israel. As Israel is criticised by human rights groups inside and outside the country we hear from a military spokesman.”

Presenter Chris Mason introduced that item as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Mason: “When you hear or use the word smokescreen, the chances are the conversation is actually indulging in a spot of imagery about a ruse designed to disguise someone’s real intentions. But along the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip today, a smoke screen was a literal description of the tactic deployed by Palestinians. The choking black clouds – the result of burning tyres – had a simple purpose: make it harder for Israeli soldiers on the other side of the border to shoot protesters in Gaza.”

Obviously listeners would be likely to erroneously conclude from that portrayal that anybody and everybody protesting “in Gaza” is liable to be shot – rather than those engaged in violent rioting right next to the border fence or attempting to infiltrate it. Mason then promoted another falsehood with the claim that all Palestinian refugees were “forcibly displaced”.

Mason: “This was the second week of a planned six-week protest set to end on the 15th of May – the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian ‘Nakba’ or catastrophe in which more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced by Israeli forces in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948.”

He continued with promotion of another now well-established theme: unquestioning repetition of casualty figures provided by the “Palestinian health ministry” – but without clarifying that the ministry concerned is run by Hamas – one of the organisers of the publicity stunt.

Mason: “Today six Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces according to the Palestinian health ministry and – as they did last week – the forces fired teargas to repel those at the border.”

Listeners then heard the “ancestral lands” theme.

Mason: “The protesters are demanding that refugees be allowed to return to ancestral lands that are now in Israel but Israel says the militant group Hamas which dominates Gaza is staging the rallies in order to launch attacks. Our correspondent Yolande Knell has spent the day with a 72 year-old Palestinian man who was one of the protesters today.”

Knell: “This is Jabaliya; one of eight refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. It’s really overcrowded. The streets are narrow with breeze-block buildings. I’ve come to the home of a retired English teacher Ahmed Abdullah to hear his story.”

Abdullah: “Here are the deeds. This was recorded in 1940 through the British Mandate. My mother took me there and she showed me every inch belongs to me.”

Knell: “Ahmed and his mother were the only survivors from their large family in the fierce fighting that followed the creation of the State of Israel. He comes from Hulayqat village, just to the north of Gaza but was brought up here. His family’s land is now an agricultural community in Israel.”

Listeners were given no context whatsoever to that story. They were not informed that Hulayqat was located along the route linking Jewish communities in the Negev to the centre of the country or that in the rioting that preceded the War of Independence, together with the inhabitants of two more hostile neighbouring villages, the residents of Hulayqat regularly harassed Jewish travelers along that road and blocked it. Neither were they told that armed Egyptian volunteers were already located in the area or that Hulayqat was the site of a British military post from which it was possible to control the route to the Negev. With the expectation of invasion by Arab armies, immediately before the War of Independence began the Palmach conducted Operation Barak in order to prevent the Jewish communities in the Negev from being cut off by the Egyptian army. Hulayqat was taken on May 13th 1948.

Knell’s interviewee went on:

Abdullah: “Now Israelis called it Heletz. They built a moshav on the land, on the village, and called it Heletz. Because the Israeli thought one day that the oldest will die and the smallest will forget. We cannot forget. We cannot forget. We know that this is our country and one day we will return back. One day. After 10 years, after 50 years, after 1,000 years – we will return back.”

Knell: “How do you feel about the protests that have been taking place here?”

Abdullah: “I’ve been there. I should be in the front. I lived the whole tragedy. I lived all my life as a refugee. They are talking about my life, about my land, about my future for my sons and grandsons. All people, all the people in the whole world they have countries. They live in countries. We as Palestinians, our country live inside us.”

Knell: “But Israel completely rejects the Palestinians’ right to go back to that land. Is it realistic to keep talking about the right of return to those villages?”

Abdullah: “Of course. It is like an [unintelligible]. We started in Gaza; we began to put pressure on the Palestinians who [unintelligible] to move, move you are a refugee not to leave us alone in Gaza and we will ask the Palestinian refugee in Lebanon to move and also the Jordanian. We want to return back.”

Although it has been clear in some of her other reports that Yolande Knell knows full well that Hamas is one of the co-organisers of this publicity stunt – and is also financing it – listeners then heard another recurrent theme: the downplaying of Hamas’ involvement.

Knell: “When the Israelis say it’s just Hamas that’s trying to stir up violence…”

Abdullah: “It is not Hamas. It is not Hamas. It is people. I’m not Hamas. I don’t believe in Hamas thoughts. I’m secular, not religious. So I took a part.”

Knell: “So you think they’re just one of the parties?”

Abdullah: “Yes but they [Israel] want to cover it with Hamas to show us as we are terrorists. We are not terrorists. We are the victim of terrorism.”

Knell: “So Ahmed, you and some of your 25 grandchildren and I have come now to the protest camp east of Jabaliya on the border with Israel. There’s a big crowd here and we can see Israeli soldiers by the fence across a field. There are tyres burning. There’s been some tear gas fired. It feels very dangerous. The idea is to continue these demonstrations until the middle of May. Are you ready to keep coming back?”

Abdullah: “Yeah. We are not fed up. We are not tired. We will continue day by day. We are on the right way to implement our right of returning to our home and land.”

That item continued with Chris Mason interviewing the head of the political NGO B’tselem about his organisation’s call for Israeli soldiers to disobey orders (also promoted in a written BBC report on the same day) and that was followed by an interview with an IDF spokesperson.

A TV version of Yolande Knell’s one-sided and totally context-free amplification of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ was also seen by viewers of BBC Four’s ‘World News Today’ and an edited version of Knell’s interview with Ahmed Abdullah was heard by listeners to the March 6th evening edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ (from 18:05 here), with presenter Julian Marshall once again unquestioningly quoting Hamas casualty figures and telling listeners that:

“…in similar protests last Friday in support of the demand that Palestinian refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel, 16 Palestinians lost their lives.”

Listeners to an earlier version of ‘Newshour’ on the same day (from 49:32 here) heard similar promotion of Hamas-supplied casualty figures that have not been independently verified by the BBC and were told by Yolande Knell that:

“The Palestinians…they’re calling for the right of those original 1948 Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Gaza – which is about 1.3 million of the 2 million population – to be allowed to go back to their land which is now in Israel. Israel has long rejected such a claim but the Palestinians here say they’re going to keep up these protests until the middle of May when it will be the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel when those hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes or forced to flee.”

The BBC has now had well over a week in which to provide its audiences with the background which would facilitate their understanding of why Israel (and the pro two-state solution international community) ‘rejects’ the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’. In light of its continued failure to produce any such reporting, one can only conclude that the BBC’s intention is not to meet its remit as a supplier of “impartial news and information” but to provide amplification for that anti-Israel political campaign.  

Related Articles:

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

BBC News claims Gaza stone throwers engaged in ‘peaceful demonstrations’

BBC again fails to adequately clarify Hamas’ role in Gaza border agitprop

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part two

BBC Radio 4 dusts off the ‘expert’ hats and ‘disproportionate’ meme

No BBC reporting on preparations for upcoming Gaza border stunt

BBC reporting on Gaza border rioting continues to avoid core issue

 

 

 

 

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

As previously documented, BBC News website reporting on the violence and rioting on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on March 30th failed to provide audiences with a clear view of what the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ means in terms of the two-state solution, that its real intention is to threaten the existence of Israel as the Jewish state or what the non-binding UN GA resolution upon which that demand is supposedly based actually says.

BBC News claims Gaza stone throwers engaged in ‘peaceful demonstrations’

BBC again fails to adequately clarify Hamas’ role in Gaza border agitprop

Seeing as the agitprop organised by Hamas and other terror factions such as the PIJ and DFLP that is dubbed ‘the Great Return March’ uses that issue as its justification, it is obviously necessary for BBC reporting on the topic to provide audiences with that essential context and background.

So did BBC radio programmes do any better than the corporation’s website?

Among the BBC Radio 4 programmes covering the story on March 30th was ‘The World Tonight presented by James Coomarasamy.

In the news bulletin at the start of the programme (from 01:34 here) listeners heard the following from newsreader Kathy Clugston: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Clugston: “Palestinian officials say at least 15 people have been shot dead and hundreds wounded during a mass protest on the border between Gaza and Israel. Thousands of demonstrators gathered for the start of a six-week campaign for the right to return to homes that are now in Israel. The Israeli military said it had fired weapons to disperse rioters. The UN Security Council is meeting tonight to discuss the situation.”

Later on (from 07:42) listeners heard Coomarasamy claim that Israelis will be celebrating Independence Day in May – rather than on April 18/19th as is actually the case – and give a context-free portrayal of the circumstances under which Palestinians became refugees when Arab armies invaded the nascent Jewish state while portraying (as he also did right at the top of the programme) the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “the Middle East conflict”.

Coomarasamy: “When Israelis celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of their state in May, Palestinians will be commemorating what for them is known as the Nakba or catastrophe: the point in history when hundreds of thousands of their forefathers became refugees. Today marked the beginning of six weeks of protests across the Palestinian territories in the lead-up to that date with thousands of people heading towards Gaza’s border with Israel chanting slogans on what is known as Land Day – the anniversary of the killing of six protesters by Israeli security forces in 1976. The demonstrators said they wanted to send a clear message that they have a right to return to what used to be Palestinian land: one of the major issues of contention in the Middle East conflict.”

Listeners then heard a voice-over translation of the words of an unidentified (and severely factually challenged) speaker, with no clarification of the fact that the Gaza Strip has not been ‘occupied’ for nearly 13 years.

V/O: “We need to change the way we deal with the Israeli occupation. Every peaceful and non-peaceful way has failed. We must find a way to go back to our homeland. It’s been 100 years now and Palestinians are stranded while all other nations of the world are enjoying peace and democracy.”

Coomarasmay: “Well despite calls for today’s protest to be peaceful it ended with some of the bloodiest confrontations in recent years. As the marchers moved towards the fortified fence separating Gaza and Israel, Israeli forces fired tear gas and bullets at the crowds just across the border after what they described as riots broke out. By nightfall at least 15 Palestinians had died and hundreds of others were injured and in the last hour the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel for the deaths of the demonstrators and called on the United Nations to provide protection to the Palestinians.”

Coomarasamy did not bother to clarify to listeners that the casualty figures he quoted come from the same terror group which organised the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt.

Coomarasamy: “Well Issam Hamad is the vice-chair of the international coordinating committee of the ‘Great Return March’ – the six-week series of protests.”

Hamad: “We have been waiting 70 years for the right of return to be implemented and also the Palestinian-Israeli issue and we have to rise up for our rights and try to draw a new line in the Palestinian era requesting the rights to be implemented.”

Coomarasamy: “But what has been achieved today is the deaths of more than a dozen Palestinians. That could have been avoided, surely?”

Hamad: “They have shoot by snipers 16 people; unarmed civilians as declared their intention earlier that they are going to be peaceful. It just ensures again towards the international community that this country [Israel] is working above the law.”

Coomarasamy: “The Israelis insist that amongst civilians there were armed members of Hamas who were using the civilians as cover.”

Hamad: “Today Gaza has received hundreds of journalists and has media coverage, satellite coverage, that has never been in Gaza since the day of the prophet Adam. Also we are in 2018: people have their mobile phones. If there is a single seen between those hundreds of thousands of civilians there was a rifle or a gun or anything, that can be easily seen. We have not seen today any arms – only civilian people.”

Failing to challenge Hamad’s inflated portrayal of the number of people taking part in the publicity stunt Coomarasamy went on:

Coomarasamy: “But amongst those crowds there were many children. Surely that was irresponsible to bring children to a march like this when you could have foreseen what was the expected Israeli response?”

Hamad: “We will continue calling on the Palestinian refugees to be present in these camps over the coming weeks and it is the responsibility of Israel to keep their safety and not use these tools and snipe the people and kill them because this is not in accordance with the international law and the camera can look…”

Coomarasamy [interrupts]: “So just to be clear, what’s happened today is not going to stop these marches: they’re going to continue for several more weeks.”

Hamad: “Today is a celebration [sic] of Land Day. This Great Return March will start tomorrow and it will continue until we go back to our lands and homes and property that was confiscated from us and we were expelled out of Palestine in 1948.”

Coomarasamy: “When the Israelis hear that they hear a threat to their security.”

Actually, when Israelis hear that they understand that the intention of Issam Hamad and his fellow march organisers is to destroy the Jewish state but Coomarasamy did not clarify that point to Radio 4 listeners.

Hamad: “This is our land. We are going to go back to our land no matter who is ruling, no matter who’s in the political parties or leading the country.”

Coomarasamy: “But you have to deal with the leadership of the country, don’t you? You can’t simply demand this right in a vacuum.”

Hamad: “This debate you are talking about, this is a political debate. This is we are not interested in. We the refugees have been thrown in the diaspora. Now in Gaza is not suitable for dogs to live so why should we stay in Gaza while we have a resolution calling that we return to our land? Why if we are registered by the United Nations and we carry registration number and each one has his name written on it and the place he should return to – why should we wait? Why should the people in Syria now suffer from the war – the Palestinian? Why should they? They were thrown in 1948 and the resolution say they must be allowed to return. So they should return. It’s the problem of Israel how to manage this return journey.”

Making no effort to relieve listeners of the erroneous impressions created by Hamad’s deliberate misrepresentation of UN GA resolution 194, Coomarasamy changed the subject.

Coomarasamy: “But at the moment Israel is adamant that what’s happening is sponsored by Hamas and it is a threat to the Israeli state.”

Hamad: “They say this. The cameras have seen, have shown today hundreds of thousands of people coming: children, babies, pregnant women, elderly, men, youth, girls. Every kind of the society today were. There was not a single flag of Hamas. There’s only the Palestine flag.”

Coomarasamy: “The other thing that is said by the Israeli army is that people were throwing stones, firebombs and that there was rioting.”

Hamad: “Today they used snipers to kill people and to injure them. If this is according to the international law, then they can claim this. But today the Palestinians are talking peace and law. People did not like rockets, did not like war, did not like that way. Now we are showing a new way. This is our right. It’s a legal right. It’s a humanitarian right. They cannot deny it. They have accepted. The only thing they can do now is implement it. It’s over. The Palestinian people have taken their decision. If we want to create a third World War now we can go ahead and do it. But halass [enough] it’s over. The people have decided. We are fed up now. It’s over.”

Coomarasamy ended that five-minute long interview at that point and went on to speak to former IDF spokesperson Avital Leibovich about the day’s events. However, the item closed without listeners being informed that UN GA resolution 194 is non-binding, that it does not specifically relate to Palestinian refugees (despite long-standing BBC claims to that effect) and – contrary to often heard assertions – neither does it grant any unconditional ‘right of return’.

Neither did Coomarasamy bother to clarify to listeners that the vast majority of the people his interviewee termed ‘refugees’ are in fact descendants of refugees condemned to that status by the fact that the UN agency responsible for their care does not have an active program for “local integration” of refugees where they now reside (even if that is under Palestinian rule) nor resettlement in third countries.

Once again we see that while the BBC provides a platform for exactly the type of media coverage that this publicity stunt was intended to garner, it fails to provide its audiences with the background information necessary for full understanding of this latest Hamas campaign to delegitimise Israel. 

Related Articles:

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tawfik also told listeners that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ley then introduced his first guest.

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

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

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

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

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

Aybet: “Well they actually, Turkey…”

Ley: “Lobbied for it, encouraged it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

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

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

How did BBC radio frame the US announcement on Jerusalem?

 

Error acknowledged, complaint upheld – yet BBC inaccuracy still remains online

Back in August we noted that the BBC had published acknowledgement of an inaccuracy that had appeared in a BBC Radio 4 programme in May 2017 on its ‘Corrections and Clarifications’ page.

When notification of that correction was received, BBC Watch had already submitted a Stage 2 complaint to the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit. The ECU has now informed us that the complaint was upheld.  

However, the programme concerned is still available online and it has not been edited to correct the presenter’s inaccurate claim (from 38:10) of “Jewish riots in the 1940s” in Manchester. Neither has any footnote been added to the webpage informing audiences that the ECU upheld a complaint concerning that statement.

BBC Watch has written to the ECU once again, pointing out that such an absurd situation does not inspire public confidence in BBC handling of editorial complaints.

Update: 

The BBC’s ECU has responded to BBC Watch’s communication:

“The programmes which remain available online stand as a record of what was broadcast, and the BBC doesn’t rewrite the record by editing them unless there’s some overriding reason to do so.  The usual action, where an error has been acknowledged, is to flag the fact on the relevant programme page and add a link to the published summary of the finding.  This has now been done in the case of the 23 May edition of The World Tonight.  I’m sorry it wasn’t done in time to forestall your email of 4 December.”

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ inverts history in Manchester

After nearly 3 months, BBC finally corrects Manchester inaccuracy

After nearly 3 months, BBC finally corrects Manchester inaccuracy

Back in May an edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ was broadcast from Manchester following a terror attack in the city the previous day. As was noted here at the time, during a discussion about “tensions that have riven the city in the past”, listeners heard presenter Ritula Shah refer to “Jewish riots in the 1940s”.

Contrary to that claim, records show that in early August 1947, during a bank holiday, rioting against Jews took place over a number of days in Manchester, Salford and additional towns and cities.

BBC Watch submitted a complaint about that error, requesting that audiences be relieved of the inaccurate impression of a seventy year-old event in the history of their own country by means of an on-air clarification in the same programme. The response received was unsatisfactory.

“I understand you found presenter Ritula Shah made an inaccurate comments about Jewish riots in the 1940s in Manchester.

Firstly, I’m sorry about the delay in getting back to you. I know people appreciate a prompt response and unfortunately we’ve taken longer to reply than usual – please accept our apologies.

I appreciate your comments and this was a discussion about the tensions in cities across Britain that have occurred throughout recent history. Please be assured it is never our intention to mislead our listeners Ritula was trying to provide some context to this discussion and was discussing how different communities in Manchester have at one time been divided.”

A second complaint was submitted and in its reply, BBC Complaints acknowledged the error but declined to take any corrective action.

“It’s clear you remain unhappy with Ritula Shah’s reference to the riots in 1947. Ms Shah had intended to refer to anti-Jewish riots in reference to the events in Manchester and elsewhere that year. This was a live interview and we accept that she could have been clearer in making this reference.

However the general point was, that despite the earlier comments made by a contributor that Manchester is a ‘tolerant’ city, there is a history of tension towards ethnic minority communities.

We’ve noted your points but do not consider they have suggested a possible breach of the BBC’s standards to justify further investigation or a more detailed reply. Opinions can vary widely about the BBC’s output, but may not necessarily imply a breach of our standards or public service obligations.

For this reason we do not feel we can add more to our reply or answer further questions or points. We realise you may be disappointed but have explained why we are not able to take your complaint further.”

BBC Watch then submitted a Stage 2 complaint to the Executive Complaints Unit to which we have yet to receive a reply. However, eight days later the following communication was received from BBC Complaints:

“Thanks again for raising your concerns with us about ‘The World Tonight’ as broadcast on May 23.

As part of your complaint we referred the reference to the programme’s editor. As a result of this, we’ve now published a statement on the Corrections and Clarifications page below:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/helpandfeedback/corrections_clarifications

We hope this helps resolve the matter to your satisfaction. Should you have any remaining concerns, the ECU can consider these as part of any appeal you wish to pursue.”

The published statement reads as follows: 

While that statement is obviously welcome, the likelihood that the listeners who were misled by the original inaccurate claim almost three months ago will see it is of course minimal.

This should have been a very simple issue to resolve. A genuine error was made and listeners to ‘The World Tonight’ could and should have been informed of that fact shortly afterwards. Instead, it took nearly three months of repeated communication to extract a simple correction that most members of the BBC’s audience will not see.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ inverts history in Manchester