BBC WS isolates narrative from context in another Gaza Corona report

As we have previously documented (see ‘related articles’ below), in the past couple of weeks the BBC provided its audiences with preemptive reporting on the topic of Coronavirus in the Gaza Strip and reports on the first two cases diagnosed there.

On March 26th seven additional cases were confirmed and the final item in that day’s afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was billed as follows in the synopsis:

“And will Gaza’s health care system be able to stem the spread of the virus?”

Presenter James Menendez introduced the report (from 48:41 here) using a novel euphemism to describe a terrorist organisation and promoting talking points already seen in earlier reports.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Menendez: “Covid 19’s shown its power to overwhelm well-funded health systems in the richest countries. How much greater the risk then when those medical services are weak to begin with and when people are packed into spaces in which calls for social distancing or self-isolation are all but futile. Gaza is the tiny strip of land between Israel and Egypt into which 2 million Palestinians are crammed under the governance of the internationally shunned Hamas movement. Matthias Schmale is the Gaza operations director of UNRWA – the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – and he’s been talking to my colleague Tim Franks.”

Schmale: “Overnight another 7 cases were announced, bringing the total to nine.”

Franks: “Right and do you know where these infections originated from?”

Schmale: “The official line from the Ministry of Health is that the original two cases came from outside. They were two Palestinians who’d been in Pakistan and then were put into quarantine. And the latest seven announced last night are guards, security people at this quarantine. So, you know, it’s a bit a border line because they didn’t travel but they contracted it from there other two inside the quarantine area.”

Franks: “Right and I guess that’s particularly concerning is once you get into local transmission.”

Schmale: “I’ve been saying now for several days we need to treat this as if it is a full outbreak. You know, we don’t have the luxury to speculate. And so as UN we are working as if there is a full outbreak locally.”

Listeners were not told that UNRWA had suspended food distribution two days earlier.

Franks: “Well you say you need to treat it as if it’s a full outbreak; Gaza has particular challenges, to put it euphemistically. How difficult is it to try and contain this virus for you?”

Schmale: “The biggest challenge really is that it is so overcrowded and that standards of living – particularly in the refugee camps; 1.4 million people in Gaza of the 2 million living here are refugees, many of whom live in overcrowded camps, so it’s very common to have six, eight or even ten people living in a room or two. And so to do social distancing in those kinds of circumstances – or isolation when once that becomes necessary – is almost impossible to imagine. So that’s one big challenge.”

Of course Tim Franks did not ask Matthias Schmale to explain to listeners why there are still refugee camps in the Gaza Strip nearly fifteen years after Israel’s disengagement from the territory and he refrained from providing BBC audiences with the highly relevant context of UNRWA’s deliberate perpetuation of hereditary refugee status for millions of people living under Palestinian control.  

Schmale: “The other big challenge is that the hospitalisation sector is completely in meltdown. Now what I’ve been told is we have at maximum 60 ICU beds. Out of every hundred people who get ill, five at least on average would need ICU so you can do the math. As soon as more than 1,500 people are ill, they won’t be able to cope. So we are really worried about that, not to mention then the many mild and medium cases that we would have that would have no place to go to.”

Franks did not ask Schmale for the source of that claim that 5% of Covid 19 patients would need ICU treatment. This model, for example, estimates that 2% of patients would need ICU treatment and 1% would require a ventilator. Neither did he bother to enquire how the fact that the Gaza Strip has a relatively young population (the median age is around 18 years) in comparison with many countries would affect the demands placed on the healthcare system.

Franks: “The next question inevitably is what can be done about it?”

Schmale: “We’ve been working for days now as UN including UNRWA – the organisation I work for looking after Palestine refugees – at high speed and try and contain it, you know, and that’s about public health messaging, as difficult as it is to try and respect the guidance from the World Health Organisation about personal hygiene, about social distance at least one or two meters apart. That needs to hold and we’re trying to do that. We are trying to work with the authorities to actually impose a curfew. We think that’s now essential, you know. We don’t – as some colleagues have expressed – want to end up like places like Italy where maybe some those decision were taken too late. And so what we’re trying to do is hope for the best that there won’t be lots of people getting ill but preparing for the worst. And there will be clear limitations as to what we can do if there indeed is a full-scale outbreak in terms of many people getting sick.”

Menendez: “Matthias Schmale, the Gaza operations director of UNRWA – that’s the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – talking about the situation there.”

As we see the BBC continues to promote long-standing talking points concerning the Gaza Strip in its coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic. Notably though, audiences have yet to hear about Hamas’ prioritisation of terror over public services for more than a decade, the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility for the shortage of medicines and equipment in hospitals in the Gaza Strip or the part played by Israel in delivering testing kits and medical supplies to the territory.  

Those omissions suggest that BBC journalists are less interested in informing audiences of the realities of the situation than they are in promoting a long since adopted narrative.

Related Articles:

BBC re-promotes the usual Gaza narratives in multiple Coronavirus reports

Mapping BBC messaging on Gaza and Corona

BBC Radio 4 spreads inaccurate Gaza healthcare canard

BBC WS radio jumps on the Gaza comparison bandwagon

Last week we saw how an edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ highlighted a redundant comparison between the situation in Idlib, Syria, and the Gaza Strip which was made by interviewee David Miliband of the NGO the International Rescue Committee.

BBC Radio 4 promotes a redundant comparison

The February 13th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Tim Franks – also included an item on the topic of the humanitarian crisis in Idlib (from 30:06 here), most of which was given over to an interview with David Miliband that was also promoted as a stand-alone item.

During that six-minute interview Miliband again brought up the subject of the Gaza Strip in one sentence. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Miliband: “Just to give your listeners a sense; the density of population in the Idlib province is now greater than the density of population on [sic] the Gaza Strip which historically has been seen as one of the most confined areas in the world.”

Franks later brought up that statement again, describing Miliband’s statement as a ‘statistic’.

Franks: “…and as you say – and I haven’t heard this statistic before – the idea that there’s a greater concentration of people there now than there is even in the Gaza Strip…”

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the population density in the Gaza Strip was 5,453 persons/km2 in mid 2019. According to the department of planning in New York City – where David Miliband resides – the population density is around 10,424 persons/km2 and in the city of London, from which ‘Newshour’ is broadcast, the population density is reported to be on average 5,590 persons/km2 with some districts having a population density of 11,200 persons/km2.

As we have noted here in the past when the BBC has promoted the same mantra, there are of course many other cities in the world with a higher population density than Gaza City and other places with higher population densities than the Gaza Strip as a whole. Interestingly, a map produced by the BBC in 2018 shows a higher population density in London than in Gaza.

Nevertheless, the BBC continues to steer its audiences towards the notion that the Gaza Strip is the benchmark for high population density and out of all the things said by David Miliband during that six-minute interview, that -revealingly – was the issue that the ‘Newshour’ Twitter account chose to highlight.

BBC WS radio promotes US peace plan commentary from partisan lobbying group

As we saw previously the January 28th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Tim Franks – had the US administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan, which had been launched a few hours earlier, as its “main story”.

Listeners had already heard from a BBC correspondent in Washington and from one of the authors of the initiative, Jason Greenblatt, at the beginning of the programme and subsequently they heard over four minutes of diatribe from the Palestinian Authority’s Husam Zomlot.

Later on in the programme (from 45:07 here) Franks brought in another negative commentator, using the well-worn but absurd BBC claim that resolution of the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel would mean “Middle East peace”. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Franks: “And back to our main story this hour: President Trump unveiling what he calls his ultimate deal for Middle East peace and saying he hasn’t just won the unequivocal support of the Israeli prime minister but also of the man who wants to take over from Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister, the leader of the main opposition party in Israel, Benny Gantz. What about the view elsewhere in Washington? Logan Bayroff is communications director for J Street which describes itself as the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans. What’s his reaction to Donald Trump’s plan?”

No effort was made to adhere to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by providing information beyond that self-composed definition of J Street and so listeners heard no objective description of the lobbying group’s “affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” which would have helped them put later claims from Logan Bayroff into perspective.

Bayroff: “Well it may be a plan, it’s certainly not a peace plan. It’s really a sham to even call it that. What it is is an act of geo-political arson where President Trump is working together with Prime Minister Netanyahu to make a bad conflict even worse. A peace plan would require a good faith effort by the United States to engage with the positions of both Israelis and Palestinians, bring them together and encourage and facilitate compromise. Instead what you have here is the unilateral adoption, essentially, by the current US administration of the traditional positions of Israel’s Right-wing government, unilaterally adopting them as United States policy and seeking to dictate those terms to the Palestinians. So that’s not peace. That’s, you know, that’s something very, very different and much, much [laughs] more dangerous.”

Although he failed to point out that it was the choice of the Palestinians not to be party to the drafting of this US plan and that they scuppered the last round of negotiations by declaring their intention to form a ‘unity government’ with the terror group Hamas, Franks did at least offer some challenge to Bayroff’s theory.

Franks: “Except what the proponents of this plan say is what’s being…what’s on offer for the first time are the hard outlines of a Palestinian state. So it’s not all that the Right in Israel would want.”

Bayroff: “I would really dispute their framing on that. They’re saying that they’re offering the Palestinians a state but what they’re actually talking about is a quasi-state – a state-minus as the prime minister likes to describe it – that has no security control over its own territory, that is not being allowed to negotiate for which portions of the West Bank it’s allowed to keep but is being told that a very small portion of occupied Palestinian territory would get to form the basis of this so-called state; non-contiguous enclaves policed by Israeli forces. It’s basically taking the current reality of occupation for the Palestinians and saying that the small number of areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority currently would get to form some kind of state.”

Franks made no effort to inform listeners that the plan actually proposes that more land than is currently controlled by the Palestinian Authority in Judea & Samaria would become part of a Palestinian state, along with the Gaza Strip (over which the PA currently has no control) and additional areas of what is today Israeli territory.

Bayroff: “Ehm…that’s not a position that any Palestinian leader could ever accept and it’s not even really being put forward as the basis for negotiation. It’s being put forward as sort of a terms of surrender document that the Palestinians have to adhere to without any previous consultation or involvement in the process. So to call this diplomacy or a peace plan, it’s really farcical and what it’s actually trying to do is to provide a green light to the Israeli government to carry out actions that they’ve been talking about for months now, namely the unilateral annexation of territory in the West Bank that is illegally occupied by Israel. The prime minister’s already talking about moving forward with that now…”

Franks: “But it’s not just the Israeli government, is it? We also have the man who wants to take over from Binyamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz, saying that he approves this plan and I just wonder – I mean I can hear all your objections to this – but what constituency you speak for if the mainstream of Israeli politics is saying we’re delighted with this.”

Listeners then found themselves being lectured on Israeli politics by an American history graduate.

Bayroff: “Well first of all I would say that, you know, Benny Gantz is put in a difficult spot in an election campaign which is why it’s so inappropriate for the US to be doing this right now. He doesn’t…neither he nor Netanyahu speak for the entirety of Israeli public opinion. But who I represent, who J Street represents first of all is pro-Israel, pro-peace American Jews and a broader constituency of Americans who want to see a safe, secure, peaceful future for Israel and understand that the only way that that is going to happen is with a serious fair two-state solution that grants real independence…ah…to Palestinians alongside Israel in their own state and it brings an end to the occupation.”

Franks did not bother to point out to either his listeners or his interviewee that the Palestinians have refused precisely such offers on several occasions in the past.

Bayroff: “That’s not only the position of my organisation and the majority of American Jews, it’s the traditional position of the United States government of both parties and it’s certainly the position of the Democratic party right now. It’s the position that was passed by the House of Representatives here in the US just a few weeks ago, saying no to annexation, no to settlement expansion, no to a plan that isn’t a real two-state solution. So in the long run, whatever the Israelis are being given to understand, this Trump plan is not going to stand as the position of the United States and it’s quite bad for Israel, the Palestinians and the United States.”

Making no effort to inform listeners that the resolution described by Bayroff is non-binding or to remind them that whatever “position” American Jews and the US House of Representatives support, it is not they who have to live with the results, Franks closed the interview there.

While informed listeners may well have been asking themselves at that point precisely what over four minutes of one-sided commentary from a representative of a partisan American lobbying group (with opinions remarkably similar to those of the Palestinian Authority representative they had heard earlier) had actually contributed to their understanding of this story, ‘Newshour’ producers undoubtedly knew why that commentator was invited to appear on the programme.

Related Articles:

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BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ viewers misled on 1949 Armistice lines

The BBC’s Middle East editor’s framing of the US peace plan

Inadequately presented interviewees and an anonymous quote in BBC One Guerin report

BBC Radio 4’s preemptive framing of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

BBC’s ‘Newshour’ serves up ‘rumours and leaks’ with one-sided analysis

BBC Radio 4 news implies previous existence of Palestinian state in US plan report

BBC radio interviews same PA representative three times in one day

 

 

 

BBC radio interviews same PA representative three times in one day

As we have already seen, preemptive framing of the US administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan by both BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio on January 28th included the provision of a platform for the Palestinian Authority’s (and Fatah’s) Husam Zomlot from which to promote his mostly unchallenged talking points.

BBC Radio 4’s preemptive framing of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

BBC’s ‘Newshour’ serves up ‘rumours and leaks’ with one-sided analysis

Just hours after the launch of the US initiative – and his previous appearance on BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’ – Zomlot was given yet another slot on the evening edition of that programme.

Describing it as returning to “our main story” (listeners had previously heard from a BBC correspondent in Washington and from one of the authors of the US initiative, Jason Greenblatt), presenter Tim Franks introduced (from 14:06 here) the four-minute and 22 second segment: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Franks: “President Trump is unveiling what he describes as his win-win peace deal for the Israelis and Palestinians. We’ve heard about the delight from the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. From the Palestinians though there’s been a fierce rejection of the proposal.”

Refraining from informing listeners that the Palestinian Authority had rejected the proposal long before it was completed and before they or anyone else had seen its contents, Franks introduced Zomlot as “the Palestinian ambassador in London” despite the fact that the BBC corrected a similar misrepresentation of Mr Zomlot’s title in 2018 after BBC Watch pointed out that according to its definition, the title ambassador means that the individual represents a state and that – as the BBC’s own style guide rightly says – there is no Palestinian state at this time. 

Zomlot’s near monologue recycled many of the talking points and themes BBC World Service radio audiences had heard just hours earlier.

Zomlot: “That was a scam really. It has nothing to do with deals or plans or peace for that matter. It was really a political circus if I may use the term. Peace is very well known. The parameters for it has been established by the international order, international legitimacy, including the UK. The world has really required from us to recognise the two-state solution, to recognise Israel, and the path was very well crafted up till President Trump this morning has killed three birds with one lethal stone.”

Clearly not finding it necessary to inform audiences that the Palestinians have repeatedly refused offers of statehood based on the two-state solution, that the Palestinians have a specific interpretation of that concept, that by no means all Palestinian factions embrace the two-state solution or that Zomlot’s boss has repeatedly refused to recognise Israel as the Jewish state, Franks allowed the diatribe to continue uninterrupted.

Zomlot: “The first bird was the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution because there will not be an Israeli prime minister in the future who would negotiate a genuine peace if Netanyahu has just pocketed Jerusalem, the refugees, the borders, all the settlements and the Jordan Valley. And the second bird that President Trump killed today is [the] international system itself, is the post-Second World War order – rules-based order – that has been established exactly for that; to prevent the acquisition and annexation of territory by force.”

Obviously not perturbed by the dissonance of a representative of an entity which literally pays salaries to terrorists lecturing listeners about “international order” and having nothing to say about the Jordanian acquisition and annexation of territory by force upon which Palestinian claims are constructed, Franks continued to stay silent.

Zomlot: “And the third bird that was killed today is the hope that Israel will not fast walk into the apartheid – full-fledged apartheid. We believe today President Trump has given Israel the full green light to actually embrace a full-fledged apartheid of the occupied territories.”

With nothing to say about that propaganda smear either, Franks changed the subject.

Franks: “What do you make of the fact that the ambassadors from Oman, Bahrain and the UAE turned up to this event at the White House? Does it not suggest that perhaps you’re losing what was once the full square support of all Arab countries?”

Zomlot: “No we’re not and let me…let me hear the Omani or the Emirati or the Bahraini people saying that they are fine with Jerusalem not being under Palestinian sovereignty.”

Franks: “Well it suggests that their governments are fine with it.”

Zomlot: “No I don’t think so. And we…”

Franks: “Why do you think they turned up to the White House then?”

Zomlot: “Well this is their business. This is their business. But we know the official position of the Arab world, the official position of the governments and nothing has changed so far…”

Franks: “Well I wonder…I just…no but too significant. I just wonder if you are really that confident that you retain the…the undiluted support of all these governments and one wonders also about what will be the reaction from Saudi Arabia, for example.”

Zomlot: “We retain the support of the majority of the international community. We heard from the Arab summits all along the last few months and years and we heard from the Saudi king several times who actually named the last summit the summit of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is not just a political issue. It also has to do with the identity, the history, the civilisation, the religion: all that we share with the Arab world and…”

Having apparently nothing to tell listeners about Jewish and Christian identity, history, civilisation and religion in Jerusalem, Franks went on:

Franks: “The Americans say that they will be offering parts of eastern Jerusalem, as they put it, as your capital.”

Zomlot the ‘diplomat’ replied:

Zomlot: “Who…who…an American president who is so arrogant and ignorant of the situation. He couldn’t even pronounce the word al Aqsa mosque; he didn’t know how to say it today in his speech and then he would draw the future of 13 million Palestinians without having one of the 13 million Palestinians in the audience of his ceremony to release his peace plan? I mean how more of a circus this could be?”

Franks again did not bother to inform listeners that there were no Palestinians in that audience because they refused to take part in the process before Zomlot went on to promote the false notion that Palestinians have settled for 22% of what is rightly ‘theirs’.

Zomlot: “We Palestinians have accepted the international compromise. We have accepted the logic of establishing a state on 22% of historic Palestine. We have recognised the State of Israel. But we will not accept our full giving up of our rights and our full submission and living second class citizens on our own land. I mean this is not a formula anybody would accept. Not the UK [laughs], not any other people, my friend. And we are not being difficult here. We are just being principled. We are being patient. We genuinely want to see a peace process that would deliver our rights and the rights of our neighbours and will have peace and security for all. But peace and security cannot be built on the skulls of an entire nation.”

With no effort made whatsoever to challenge that propaganda Franks closed the item, once again referring to a person being interviewed precisely because a Palestinian state does not exist as an ‘ambassador’.

Franks: “Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to London.”

As we see, Husam Zomlot appeared on no fewer that three BBC radio programmes on January 28th. In all three of those items remarkably little effort was made by BBC presenters to question the distortions, falsehoods and outright propaganda that he set out to peddle to audiences both in the UK and around the world. While it is no doubt extremely convenient for BBC producers to have such a wiling commentator on their doorstep, they have apparently not given much thought to the question of how the repeated airing of his unchallenged propaganda damages their obligations as set out in the BBC’s public purposes.

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Snark and speculation on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’

BBC’s Tom Bateman misleads on the Oslo Accords

BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ viewers misled on 1949 Armistice lines

The BBC’s Middle East editor’s framing of the US peace plan

Inadequately presented interviewees and an anonymous quote in BBC One Guerin report

BBC Radio 4’s preemptive framing of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

BBC’s ‘Newshour’ serves up ‘rumours and leaks’ with one-sided analysis

BBC Radio 4 news implies previous existence of Palestinian state in US plan report

 

 

The BBC’s biased Bethlehem binge continues

Yesterday we documented an overtly politicised Christmas report by Barbara Plett Usher which was aired on BBC World Service radio’s ‘Global News Podcast’ on Christmas Eve.

BBC politicisation of Christmas continues on WS radio

An extended version of that audio report was also broadcast on three additional BBC radio programmes on December 24th with the following introductions:

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

1) BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’ (from 46:37 here)

Mishal Husain: “Now, Bethlehem relies on tourists at this time of year and this Christmas looks like being the best for some years after a time of relative peace. It is a Palestinian city in the West Bank which is feeling the economic effect of the Israeli occupation. Israel has restricted movement out of the West Bank and confiscated some Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements and what it calls a security barrier around the city. Barbara Plett Usher reports from there.”

2) BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’ afternoon edition (from 45:04 here)

Tim Franks: “Bethlehem is preparing for what it hopes will be the best Christmas in years as the city now boasts a fragment of wood believed by some to have formed part of Jesus’ manger. The relic’s been returned from the Vatican where it’s been since the 7th century. But even with that boost, the biblical town revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ remains fragile. The once thriving local Christian community is dwindling – partly because of the economic effect of the Israeli occupation with restrictions on freedom of movement which Israel argues are for security reasons, which Palestinians say damage not only their economy but their dignity as well. Barbara Plett Usher has more from the town in the spotlight this Christmas.”

3) BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’ evening edition (from 36:59 here)

Julian Marshall: “Pilgrims from around the world are preparing to begin Christmas celebrations with midnight mass in Bethlehem, believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus. Modern Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the Israeli occupied West Bank. Its holy sites are administered by the Greek Orthodox and Latin patriarchies. But the once thriving Palestinian Christian community has dwindled. Israel has restricted movement out of the West Bank and confiscated some Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements and what it calls a security barrier around the city. Palestinians say these measures significantly harm their freedom and their economic prospects. Barbara Plett Usher has more from the town in the spotlight at Christmas.”

Once again we see BBC journalists using the term “Israeli occupied” without any mention of the fact that Bethlehem came under complete Palestinian Authority control twenty-four years ago in December 1995.

Yet again listeners were not informed that no “restrictions on freedom of movement” existed until the Palestinians chose to launch the second Intifada in the year 2000 and they heard nothing at all about the Palestinian terrorism that murdered and wounded thousands of Israeli civilians and which brought security measures such as checkpoints and the anti-terrorist fence into existence.

The BBC practice of describing an area still subject to negotiation under the terms of an agreement signed by the Palestinians as “Palestinian land” was once again in evidence, as was promotion of the false claim that there is a wall “around Bethlehem”.

And yet again BBC audiences were not provided with the context which would enhance their understanding of why the Palestinian Christian community is ‘dwindling’ – including the issue of Palestinian Authority persecution and discrimination – or any significant information concerning Bethlehem’s economy beyond the trite politicised slogans blaming Israel.

The extended version of Barbara Plett Usher’s report (a filmed version of which was also aired on BBC television on Christmas Eve) includes an interview with a man dressed up as Santa in Manger Square during which listeners heard that “Bethlehem is a city of peace” despite the fact that it has been the source of many terror attacks and plots. The part of Plett Usher’s report describing St Catherine’s church and an Airbnb in Deheishe are expanded and we discover that she badgered more than one American tourist in order to promote her own political agenda.

Plett Usher: “What comes to mind when you come to Bethlehem? What’s the main impression?”

Tourist 1: “Oh well it’s overwhelming because of just how…I mean this is where our lord saviour was born and, my goodness, I mean this is it where everything started.”

Plett Usher: “But what about the wall around Bethlehem now? The big cement wall – what do you think of that?”

Tourist 1: “Oh yes, that was substantial of course and you can tell that people that lived in the old times, how protected they felt by the big wall and how amazing it is today.”

Plett Usher: “It’s a new wall but anyway…”

Tourist 1: “Oh, that’s a new wall?”

Plett Usher: “Yes.”

Tourist 1: “Oh OK, it’s a new wall then. That so it’s about the future as well.”

Tourist 2: “We’re from the US, yes.”

Plett Usher: “And what do you think of Bethlehem?”

Tourist 2: “Ah, it’s beautiful.”

Plett Usher: “What about the politics? Do you know…”

Tourist 2: “I don’t know much about it. All I know is my saviour Jesus Christ. That’s all I know. That’s all I care about. I just want to learn more about him. Yeah, and my eyes are open now that I’m here.”

Plett Usher: “What have you seen now that your eyes are open?”

Tourist 2: “Oh well, it’s as if I was coming to life, so yes.”

There is of course nothing novel about a BBC journalist exploiting the ‘season of goodwill’ to promote her own political agenda which includes misinformation about a structure built to protect Israeli civilians of all faiths and ethnicities from Palestinian terrorism. Many BBC employees have done the exact same over the years while studiously avoiding any serious reporting on the topic of the beleaguered Christians living under Palestinian Authority and Hamas rule.

Related Articles:

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BBC News again self-conscripts to Banksy’s Israel delegitimisation

BBC WS radio airs anti-terrorist fence falsehoods

BBC Radio 4 religious show airs anodyne report on Palestinian Christians

Documenting five years of BBC politicisation of Christmas

 

 

 

The BBC returns to an old obsession

Long-time readers may recall that back in early 2013 the BBC exhibited something of an obsession with one Israeli football club.

The BBC, football racism and Israel

Obsession: four BBC ‘Beitar’ articles in under a week

As was noted here at the time:

“Yes – there is a serious problem with a group of racist fans of one football club out of dozens – most of which (as even acknowledged in the BBC article on the subject) have players from many different religious and ethnic backgrounds – in a country which includes players from minority ethnic and religious groups on its national teams

Deplorable as the racism among some fans at Beitar Jerusalem is, its existence makes Israel no different and no worse than most countries on the planet which have also failed to eliminate racism from football. It certainly does not justify the over-generalised headline “Football racism fears in Israel” or the placing of two separate reports on two home pages of the BBC News website for a relatively prolonged period of time. 

Unless, that is, this incident is being exploited to try to advance a specific narrative about an entire country.” 

In 2016 the BBC’s Middle East editor promoted an irrelevant comparison – and false equivalence – between incitement and glorification of terrorism sanctioned and organised by the Palestinian Authority and its main party Fatah with the behaviour of a specific group of Israeli football hooligans.  

“Hate-filled Palestinian rhetoric against Israel is not hard to find. It cuts the other way too.

Fans of one of Jerusalem’s professional football clubs, which has roots in a right-wing Zionist youth movement, are notorious for chanting “Death to Arabs” during games.”

On December 20th the BBC returned to the topic of the Beitar Jerusalem football club in a flurry of reports by BBC Sport’s Alex Capstick.

A written report headlined “Beitar Jerusalem: How do you change ‘the most racist’ club in Israel?” was published on the BBC Sport website and on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

A filmed report titled “How Beitar Jerusalem’s football club owner took on racism and won” was also posted on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page and in its ‘Crossing Divides’ section. That film promotes the following bizarre claim:

“In Israel pulling people together in a common cause is difficult.”

The BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item on the same story (from 14:05 here) with presenter Tim Franks telling listeners that:

“One of the more unpleasant football matches I’ve ever attend was fifteen years ago in Jerusalem where the top club, Beitar, had a truly terrible reputation for a hardcore of racist fans and so they proved to be, screaming ‘death to Arabs’, waving blood-curdling banners – you get the ugly picture. But when the high-tech business mogul Moshe Hogeg became the new owner, he decided to take the numbskulls on and his at-time confrontational style seems to be working.”

The filmed report tells viewers that Beitar Jerusalem is “the only one [team] in the top division never to have selected as Arab player”. However none of Capstick’s reports inform BBC audiences just how prevalent Muslim players actually are in Israeli football teams – including the national squad which is currently captained by Circassian footballer Bibras Natkho.

Obviously the BBC continues to find it more ‘newsworthy’ to promote the exception to the rule by continuing to focus audience attentions on one particular Israeli football club.

BBC’s Jeremy Bowen misrepresents the 4th Geneva Convention

The role of the BBC’s Middle East editor is to provide “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent”.

Hence, when Jeremy Bowen appeared on two BBC radio stations on November 19th to provide answers to questions concerning “the legal status of […] settlements” following a statement made the previous day by the US Secretary of State, BBC licence fee payers no doubt expected to hear accurate, impartial and comprehensive information which would enhance their understanding of that undoubtedly “complex story”. 

The November 19th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ included an item (from 22:40 here) introduced by presenter Evan Davis as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Davis: “Last night the US made a dramatic shift in its position on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would no longer view them as inconsistent with international law. Most of the rest of the world considers settlements on Palestinian territory as illegal. Jeremy Bowen’s our Middle East editor. Jeremy: is it illegal? Is it a fact that it’s illegal? Does it become legal if America says we don’t consider it illegal? Where are we on what the legal status of those settlements are [sic]?”

Bowen: “Israel has always argued on legal grounds that it’s not formally occupied territory because they say that the West Bank and other occupied territories were not part of any country before Israel occupied them in 1967. In fact the land had been annexed by Jordan but that wasn’t recognised by that many states. Ah…the rest of the world pretty much – including the US up to last night – said that’s the wrong interpretation and under international humanitarian law – under the Geneva Conventions – states who capture by war territory are not allowed to move their own people onto that territory and to settle them there permanently, which is what effectively is done in Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. So that’s the interpretation that Britain certainly clings to and the European Union, which put out a very strong statement along those lines today.”

Later the same day Bowen appeared on the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 30:07 here) and was similarly asked by presenter Tim Franks to explain the legal issues.

Franks: “…some people said that these settlements…well, international consensus seemed to be that these settlements were against international law. What was the basis for that?”

Bowen: “International humanitarian law – the Geneva Conventions – state quite clearly that if a belligerent country in a war seizes land and occupies it, it is not permitted to move its own people into that land and settle them there permanently. That is not allowed under international law. So that is why most of the world – including the US until last night – said that was their position. Now the Israelis have had a different position because the Israeli argument has been that conventions don’t apply in the same way because the West Bank till Israel captured it in 1967 was territory that had been annexed by Jordan and that annexation had not been widely internationally recognised, therefore you can’t call the land occupied.”

As we see, in both those items Jeremy Bowen claimed that the Geneva Conventions do not permit an occupying power “to move” its own people onto occupied territory. That, however, is not what Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention says.

None of the Israeli civilians living in Judea & Samaria were ‘deported’ or ‘transferred’ there – or for that matter ‘moved’ by the Israeli government. 

Bowen’s portrayal of Israel as a “belligerent country” whitewashes the fact that it was Jordan which attacked Israel on June 5th 1967, even after Prime Minister Levi Eshkol had sent a message to King Hussein saying Israel would not attack Jordan unless he initiated hostilities.

Bowen also whitewashed the Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem, referring only to the subsequent ‘annexation’ in 1950 which he described as not being “recognised by that many states” and “not…widely internationally recognised”. That portrayal obviously does not adequately reflect the fact that Jordan’s annexation of Judea & Samaria was recognised only by the United Kingdom, Pakistan and – according to some sources – Iraq. The UK refrained however from recognising Jordan’s annexation of parts of Jerusalem.

Professor Eugene Kontorovich raises an interesting point concerning that issue which was predictably ignored by Bowen.

“During the War of Independence, Jordan and Egypt conquered territories from Israel illegally, and it was almost universally agreed that neither Jordan nor Egypt had any legitimate claim of sovereignty over Judea and Samaria or Gaza. […]

Today, the prevalent approach is that even though the land did not belong to Jordan, it was “Jordanian enough,” and therefore the laws of occupation and the Geneva Convention apply to it. This is nonsense, because even if we assumed this was correct, the Geneva Convention no longer applies when there is a peace treaty, and there has been a peace treaty with Jordan since 1994. It has to be either one or the other: Either it belonged to Israel all the time and Israel liberated its own territory in 1967, and you can’t occupy your own territory. Alternatively, it was “Jordanian enough” in 1967 for the laws of occupation to apply. In that case, the peace treaty with Jordan nullified the Geneva Convention.” 

Another significant omission by the BBC Middle East editor is of course the status of that territory prior to that Jordanian invasion and occupation under the Mandate for Palestine which emerged following World War I. As Amb. Alan Baker explains:

“…the Principal Allied Powers finalized the territorial dispositions regarding the Jewish people in respect to Palestine and the Arabs in respect to Mesopotamia (Iraq), Syria, and Lebanon. 

The San Remo Declaration stated inter alia that:

“The mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on the 8th [2nd] of November, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people …”

This was incorporated into Article 95 of the (unratified) Treaty of Sèvres of Aug. 10, 1920, and subsequently in the Preamble and Article 2 of the Mandate for Palestine approved by the Council of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922.”

And so as we see, the man responsible for providing the BBC’s funding public with “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” failed to meet his remit and instead touted a superficial and simplistic portrayal which included a misrepresentation of Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention.  

BBC abandons independent verification in reporting on Gaza casualties

As long-time readers will be aware, during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 the BBC failed to independently verify casualty figures and civilian-combatant casualty ratios provided by the Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip. Instead, its coverage during and since that conflict was based on data obtained from partial sources which it promoted to audiences without fact-checking.

Since then BBC journalists appear to have ceased trying to independently verify information provided by a terrorist organisation and instead adopt a qualifying ‘he said-she said’ approach which includes describing all Gaza Strip casualties as “Palestinians”, regardless of whether or not they belonged to terror groups.

Here are some examples from the first two days of BBC reporting on the recent events in Israel and the Gaza Strip. [emphasis in bold added]

November 12th 2019, BBC News website, ‘Israel kills top Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza’:

“Israeli aircraft also targeted PIJ rocket-launching units in two separate strikes, according to the IDF. Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry reported that three Palestinian men were killed in northern Gaza.”

November 12th 2019, BBC News website, ‘Israel-Gaza violence spirals after killing of top Palestinian militant’:

“Violence escalated after Israel killed PIJ commander Baha Abu al-Ata. Four more Palestinians were also killed. […]

Three Palestinians were killed in air strikes in northern Gaza, one of which targeted a group preparing to launch a rocket, Israel said.”

November 12th 2019, BBC World Service radio, ‘Global News Podcast’:

Tom Bateman [03:40]: “And inside the Gaza Strip, Israeli airstrikes have resumed. The latest is they targeted two people on a motorbike that Israel says were a rocket launching unit. One of those people has been killed…”

November 13th 2019: BBC Radio 4,Today’:

[0:34:39] Mishal Husain: “There are fears of a further escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza after 24 hours of violence in which a Palestinian commander was killed by Israel, rocket attacks from Gaza injured Israelis and Palestinians were killed in further Israeli strikes on the territory. […] Tom, first what do we know of those latest Israeli strikes and the Palestinians who died?”

Tom Bateman: “…Palestinian media reporting that one Palestinian has been killed in those strikes so that brings the total of Palestinians who’ve died over the last 24 hours, including Abu al Ata the Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader that was targeted by the Israelis yesterday, that total number to eleven.”

[2:33:07] Mishal Husain: “…rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, injuring Israeli civilians and Israeli airstrikes have killed another 14 Palestinians.”

Tom Bateman: “By nightfall [on November 12th] health officials there had said in addition to al Ata and his wife, another 8 Palestinians had been killed. Israel said it targeted Islamic Jihad militant sites including people trying to launch rockets.”

Mishal Husain: “And the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza says there’s now a total of 16 people who have been killed in the Israeli airstrikes, including the Islamic Jihad commander and his wife.”

November 13th 2019, BBC World Service radio,Newshour’:

[09:19] Tim Franks: “More Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. At least 23 are reported to have died in the territory.”

November 13th 2019, BBC News website,Israel-Gaza fighting continues for second day after militant’s death’ – version 7:

“Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 26 Palestinians, including three children, had been killed by Israeli fire by Wednesday evening. […]

The IDF said “20 terrorists” were killed, most of them from Islamic Jihad.

The health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas militants, said three children were among the 23 people killed in Israeli strikes on Wednesday.

PIJ said the dead included members of its military wing, the al-Quds Brigades. Khaled Faraj, a field commander, was killed in a strike in central Gaza.”

As we see, the BBC made no attempt in any of those reports to independently verify the claims of various parties. Neither was any effort made to inform audiences in its own words of how many of those killed in the Gaza Strip were members of terror groups – even when they had been identified as such by their own organisations.

The BBC cannot possibly claim that such an editorial policy contributes to meeting its public purpose remit of providing “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding” and offering  “a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers” so that “audiences can engage fully with major… global issues”.

Related Articles:

BBC continues to avoid independent verification of Gaza casualty ratios

BBC promotion of the inaccurate notion of exceptional civilian casualties in Gaza

BBC Complaints defends its use of Hamas supplied casualty figures

BBC radio stations promote Hamas ‘health ministry’ propaganda

NPR covers up Islamic Jihad casualties (CAMERA) 

 

 

BBC portrayal of attacks on synagogues differs according to location

The day after the terror attack in Germany on Yom Kippur both domestic and worldwide BBC radio stations continued to cover the story.

The October 10th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 34:31 here) in which presenter Nick Robinson discussed the story with security correspondent Frank Gardner. During that conversation, the previous day’s events were accurately described as terrorism. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Robinson [36:18]: “And a reminder too that a growing number of terrorist attacks do come from the far-Right.”

Gardner: “Yes, ah…and in fact Germany’s interior minister said only last month that the danger of far-Right extremist attacks is now every bit as big as Jihadist. I mean this is extraordinary when you think that of all the attacks that Europe has suffered, you know, in Nice, in Barcelona, in Sweden and of course in Britain and here in the UK the authorities have said that the threat from far-Right extremism is the biggest growing – the fastest growing – security threat to this country.”

The BBC used the term terrorism in its reporting on all those previous attacks in the European locations mentioned by Gardner.

On the same day an edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ also included an item about the Halle attack which was introduced by presenter Tim Franks (from 45:05 here) as follows:

Franks: “Wednesday was the holiest day of the Jewish calendar; the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. In the German town of Halle it was also a day of terror as a gunman sprayed fire on the closed doors of the synagogue inside which about fifty Jews were praying.”

Once again we see evidence of the BBC’s double standards on ‘language when reporting terrorism’: when a gunman motivated by a particular political ideology attacked a synagogue in Germany, the BBC accurately described that act as terrorism.  

But when similarly motivated gunmen attacked a synagogue in Jerusalem in November 2014 the BBC avoided describing the incident as a terror attack in its own words and compromised its own impartiality by refusing to discuss the blatant discrepancy it perpetuates between reporting on terror attacks against Israelis and coverage of attacks in some other locations.

Related Articles:

The BBC and definition of terrorism

BBC senior editor defends double standards on terrorism

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

BBC News website does ‘one man’s terrorist’

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

 

BBC WS radio presenter invents superfluous drama

One might have thought that the recent Israeli election would have provided sufficient drama for BBC journalists to have no need to invent more – but apparently that was not the case for BBC World Service radio’s Tim Franks.

At the start of the lead item in the September 19th evening edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 00:09 here) Franks told listeners around the world that: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

“There’s a rather excruciating photo on the BBC News website today of the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the man who wants his job; the former military chief turned politician Benny Gantz. They’re clasping each other’s hands and smiling. At least I think that’s what they’re doing: their teeth are bared anyway. The photo-op was at a memorial ceremony for a former Israeli prime minister in Jerusalem and came as the two men are jousting over who should try to build – and who should lead – a new governing coalition.”

At the end of the item (from 12:30) Franks returned to the subject of that photograph taken at the same day’s memorial for Shimon Peres.

“I mentioned that that photograph is excruciating. You can of course make up your own mind, make up your own adjective, if you head to the BBC website […] to see Benny Gantz and Binyamin Netanyahu giving each other what I think are smiles.”

That photograph can be found here and readers can judge for themselves whether Franks’ claim that it is “excruciating” and that “teeth are bared” stands up to objective examination.

It is of course pretty safe to assume that had Gantz and Netanyahu not shook hands and smiled when they met at an official state ceremony, Tim Franks would have had some banal editorialised comment to make about that too.