BBC WS ‘Heart and Soul’ discusses internal Israeli affairs

In recent months the BBC World Service radio religious programme ‘Heart and Soul’ has aired several editions described as ‘Gatherings’ involving a panel and audience discussion to “explore questions of faith shaping futures around the world”.

In September 2018 the programme visited the United States, asking “What role do black churches have in the fight for social justice today?”. A November 2018 edition of the programme was billed “Nuala McGovern is in Rome with young Catholics from across the globe to discuss issues such as sexuality, leadership in the Church, and the role of women”.

On January 12th the programme’s latest edition – titled “Marriage in Israel” – was broadcast from Jerusalem.

“Many young Jewish people living in Israel feel religion has too big an influence over their private lives. Numerous aspects of life are governed by a council made up of orthodox rabbis called the Rabbinate. They decide who is and isn’t Jewish and by extension who can and can’t marry.

Supporters of the organisation say this helps preserve Jewish identity. Critics say it means thousands of people who are not deemed ‘Jewish enough’ can’t marry each other, forcing couples to leave the country to have a ceremony that will be recognised by the authorities when they return home.

The religious monopoly on marriage also means Jews cannot marry non-Jews and as the council of orthodox rabbis rule on divorce for every married couple in Israel, many say this disadvantages women.

Tim Franks is with a live audience and a panel of guests to discuss whether the Rabbinate should be stripped of its monopoly, or whether the current rules protect the identity and values of the Jewish faith.

This special Heart and Soul Gathering from the BBC World Service is the third programme in a series of faith-based community discussions.” [emphasis added]

Obviously debate on that topic is of relevance solely to Israelis and more specifically – given that the discussion was conducted in English with contributing members of the panel and the audience mostly coming from the very small proportion of Israelis for whom English is a native language – to any BBC World Service radio listeners among roughly half of the Israeli population who describe their English language skills as fair or good.

Readers can hence judge for themselves the objectives and value of the worldwide broadcast of a nearly hour-long English language discussion of internal Israeli affairs involving a presenter and production team flown in for the occasion.  

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Reviewing BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of events in Israel and Gaza – part 2

In part one of this post we saw that listeners to the two editions of the BBC World Service radio’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour‘ on November 12th were repeatedly led to believe that just one of the seven Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis the previous evening was a member of Hamas despite the fact that all belonged to terror factions.

By the time those two editions had ended, listeners had heard from two residents of the Gaza Strip – one at length – but nothing from any of the residents of southern Israel affected by the 17 rocket attacks launched by terrorists on November 11th or the hundreds of attacks launched from the afternoon of November 12th onward.

On the following day (November 13th) the afternoon edition of ‘Newshour’ was titled “Deadly Fire Traded Between Israel and Gaza” and once again the image used to illustrate the programme’s webpage depicted a scene in the Gaza Strip.

“The worst escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since the 2014 war is threatening to descend into a full-blown conflict. More than 400 rockets have been fired into Israel, while Israeli aircraft have hit 150 militant targets in response.”

(Photo: Smoke blows up [sic] after Israeli fighter jets carried out airstrike to positions in Gaza City. Credit: Getty Images)

As documented here previously, presenter Julian Marshall failed to tell listeners that by that time at least three of those killed in IDF strikes had been claimed as members by terror organisations. This edition did however include the first – and only – mention of the fact that a civilian had been killed when a rocket hit an apartment block in Ashkelon.

Marshall: “Well Israeli airstrikes have left at least six Palestinians dead.”

The item included a brief statement from an IDF Spokesperson as well as an interview with a resident of the Gaza Strip (Majd Masharawi) and a resident of Ashkelon (Sigal Arieli).

Listeners did not hear anything which would contribute to their appreciation of the fact that in this round of violence, Israeli civilians were being deliberately targeted by terrorist organisations while civilians in the Gaza Strip were actually receiving warnings of impending strikes against military targets in order to ensure their safety.

The evening edition of the programme was titled “Gaza Israel Violence” and for the first time visitors to the webpage saw an image depicting events in Israel.

“Hamas says it’s agreed to a ceasefire in its hostilities with Israel. Israel says it reserves the right to strike inside Gaza. But how to stop the violence for good? We’ll hear from a former senior member of the Obama White House.”

(Photo: Buildings in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon were hit by rockets fired from Gaza. Credit: AFP)

As noted here previously, the original caption to that photograph uses the word ‘house’ rather than “buildings”.

Presenter Tim Franks introduced the item (from 00:52 here), once again erasing the fact that all the Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis were members of terror factions.

Franks: “It takes two sides to agree a ceasefire. The question tonight in the Middle East is is that what Israel and Hamas – the Palestinian group running Gaza – have both agreed? Hamas says it has; that it said yes to the terms of an Egyptian brokered deal. Israeli officials have been rather more circumspect, saying they reserve the right to continue air strikes into Gaza as necessary. All this comes against the most heated flare-up of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants for four years. Over the weekend Israeli Special Forces conducted an operation deep inside Gazan territory which appeared to spin out of control. Seven Palestinians were killed including a senior Hamas commander. One Israeli officer died. Out of Gaza there then came a barrage of hundreds of rockets fired into southern Israel. The Israeli military conducted scores of airstrikes inside Gaza. There was widespread fear that this could escalate into a full-blown war as it has three times in the last decade. “

Listeners then heard a report from Jerusalem correspondent Yolande Knell in which they were told that:

Knell: “The Israeli military says more than 460 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza in the past 24 hours and that it struck 160 militant targets including a building in Gaza City that it said was used by Hamas intelligence.”

Knell then immediately contradicted that accurate information with a claim from a Gaza resident who later on in the week cropped up in yet another BBC report.

Knell: “A doctor living there, Adnan al Waheidi, condemned the attack.”

Al Waheidi: “They destroy a civilian building which was fully occupied with families, where you find women are crying and the children are leaving and everybody’s just trying to escape for themself.”

Although by the time this programme was aired the extent of the damage to homes and businesses in southern Israeli communities was clear and the death of one civilian and injury of dozens of others had been amply reported by the local media, Knell confined her portrayal of the Israeli side of the story to sirens.

Knell: “On the Israeli side sirens sounded repeatedly. Einav Shimoni lives just two miles from the Gaza border.”

After listeners had heard Shimomi’s description of alarms and running to the shelter, Knell told ‘Newshour’ listeners for the first time in all four programmes that the seven Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis were “militants”.

The item continued with segments from the interviews with Majd Masharawi in Gaza and Sigal Arieli in Ashkelon which had been heard in that day’s earlier edition of ‘Newshour’ and closed with an interview about ceasefire prospects with Ilan Goldenberg – described by Franks as “a man who used to be one of President Obama’s point men on the Middle East”. 

In the four editions of ‘Newshour’ aired on November 12th and 13th BBC World Service listeners around the world heard one short statement from an IDF spokesperson and one lengthy interview with a Hamas spokesman – parts of which were later repeated. Listeners heard comment relating to the broader background to the story from one Israeli journalist and one American commentator as well as one Israeli MK. Interviews with four different residents of the Gaza Strip – two of them lengthy and one partly repeated – were aired in contrast to interviews with two Israeli civilians affected by the rocket attacks – one lengthy and partly repeated.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state that their principles include:

“We must do all we can to ensure that ‘controversial subjects’ are treated with due impartiality in all our output.

News in whatever form must be treated with due impartiality, giving due weight to events, opinion and main strands of argument.

We are committed to reflecting a wide range of opinion across our output as a whole and over an appropriate timeframe so that no significant strand of thought is knowingly unreflected or under-represented.”

And:

“News in whatever form must be treated with due impartiality, giving due weight to events, opinion and main strands of argument.  The approach and tone of news stories must always reflect our editorial values, including our commitment to impartiality.”

“Due impartiality” and “due weight” can hardly be said to have been achieved when listeners heard twice as many voices from the Gaza Strip than they did Israeli civilians.

Listeners heard inaccurate descriptions of the Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis on five occasions (and on one webpage) and only one accurate portrayal. They heard one accurate and one inaccurate portrayal of people in the Gaza Strip killed in the Israeli airstrikes that came in response to Gaza terror factions’ missile fire on civilians. A civilian killed in Ashkelon in one of those rocket attacks was mentioned just once.

Half of the programmes failed to clarify to listeners that while the rocket fire by Gaza based terror groups deliberately targeted Israeli civilians, Israel’s airstrikes targeted the assets of terror factions and false equivalence between those differently focused attacks was promoted in all editions.

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on accuracy state that its principles include:

“We must do all we can to ensure due accuracy in all our output.

The BBC must not knowingly and materially mislead its audiences.  We should not distort known facts, present invented material as fact or otherwise undermine our audiences’ trust in our content.”

Repeatedly describing six of the seven people killed in the incident near Khan Younis as “Palestinians” even though – as locally based BBC journalists knew – they had been claimed by two armed terror factions is obviously a prime example of misleading audiences and distorting known facts.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of events in Israel and Gaza – part one

Terrorists and rockets disappear in BBC news reports

More BBC false equivalence on World Service radio – part one

More BBC false equivalence on World Service radio – part two

False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks

 

Reviewing BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of events in Israel and Gaza – part one

As readers are no doubt aware on the evening of November 11th an Israeli Special Forces unit engaged in a covert operation east of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip was exposed. In the ensuing firefight one Israeli officer was killed and another injured. Six members of Hamas and one member of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) were also killed. Later the same night terror factions in the Gaza Strip fired 17 projectiles at Israeli civilian communities in the Western Negev.

At around 16:30 the next day (November 12th) an Israeli soldier was injured when Hamas attacked an Israeli bus using a Kornet anti-tank missile. That was followed by an intense barrage of rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli communities with direct hits on homes and businesses in Ashkelon, Netivot, Sderot and at least three kibbutzim. One man was killed in Ashkelon and dozens were wounded. The attacks continued into the next day. Israel responded with some 150 strikes on targets belonging to terrorist factions in the Gaza Strip. Six fatalities were reported – at least four of whom were claimed by the PFLP and PIJ terror factions.

So how did BBC World Service radio’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour‘ report those events and did that reporting adhere to the BBC’s editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality?

Listeners to the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on November 11th heard a brief mention of the incident near Khan Younis in a news bulletin (from 25:25 here): [all emphasis in italics in the original, all emphasis in bold added]

“The Israeli army says it’s been involved in an exchange of fire with Hamas militants in Gaza. Media reports quoting Palestinian sources say at least 2 people, including a Hamas commander, were killed in the clashes.”

That incident was the lead story in the afternoon edition of ‘Newshour’ on November 12th which was titled “Gaza: Eight Killed in Covert Israeli Operation” with the synopsis telling BBC audiences that:

“A covert Israeli operation in the Gaza strip has killed seven Palestinians – including one Hamas military commander – and one Israeli soldier. The unrest threatens to upend a fragile and unofficial ceasefire between Israel and Hamas since March.”

(Image: Relatives of one of the seven Palestinians killed during an Israeli special forces operation in the Gaza Strip, mourn during his funeral. Credit: Getty Images)

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the item (from 00:11 here) as follows:

Iqbal: “We begin today with Gaza and Israel. There has been a fragile and unofficial ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the wake of the bloodshed since March this year during protests by Palestinians at the border with Israel, dubbed by them as the Great Return March. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis. On Sunday a covert Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip resulted in the deaths of seven Palestinians including one Hamas commander and one Israeli soldier – a Lieutenant Colonel. The subsequent firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza threatens to upend an uneasy peace. The prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has returned from Armistice commemorations in Europe to meet with his security cabinet.”

In the rest of that item listeners heard from a man identified as Abu Amana – supposedly an eye-witness to the firefight near Khan Younis – before Iqbal conducted a long interview with Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad. As noted here previously, Iqbal once again failed to inform BBC audiences that all of the Palestinians killed in that incident were members of terror factions.

Iqbal: “But there was also a big significant loss on your side. Apart from the six other people who were killed, a senior Hamas commander, Nur Baraka.”

She likewise subsequently failed to challenge her Hamas interviewee’s claim that “they [Israel] killed seven civilians yesterday” or his claim that the Gaza Strip is ‘occupied’.

Iqbal’s final interviewee was Israeli MK Michael Oren to whom she put the claim that Israel had jeopardised the ‘ceasefire’ with a “botched” covert operation in the Gaza Strip.

The evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day – November 12th – was titled “Violence Between Israel and Gaza Escalates” and yet again the webpage was illustrated using a photograph taken in Gaza.

“Tensions have increased after a failed Israeli undercover operation. A mother of two young children tells us what it’s like living through the violence in the Gaza strip.”

(photo: Smoke rises after Israeli air strike in Gaza City, 12 November 2018 Credit: EPA/Mohammed Saber)

Presenter Tim Franks opened that lead story (from 01:17 here) as follows:

Franks: “The border between Israel and the Gaza Strip bristles with tension. It has done for years now and particularly in the decade or more that the Islamist Hamas movement has had control of the Palestinian territory. Frequently that tension erupts into violence – even outright war. As night has fallen in this part of the Middle East, there is a fear that events of the last 24 hours could presage another bloody upsurge. On Sunday an Israeli soldier and seven Palestinians – including a commander of Hamas’ paramilitary wing – were killed during an undercover Israeli operation deep inside the Gaza Strip. Since then scores of rockets – the Israeli army has just said 300 – have been fired from the Palestinian territory into southern Israel. The Israeli military for its part has carried out airstrikes – dozens of them – against targets inside the Gaza Strip.”

As we see, a full day after the incident near Khan Younis, listeners to ‘Newshour’ had still not been informed that all the Palestinians killed were members of terror groups.

Having failed to clarify to listeners that while that unattributed rocket fire targeted Israeli civilians, Israel’s airstrikes targeted the assets of terror factions, Franks went on to introduce his first interviewee, failing to challenge her description of the Gaza Strip as ‘occupied’, her inversion of rockets fired by terrorists as the result of Israeli counter-terrorism measures rather than their cause or even her claim that “Palestinians have tried peace”.

Franks: “First, a sense of life tonight in the Gaza Strip. Najla Shawa is an aid worker and mother of two young children who lives to the west of Gaza City.”

As noted here previously, part of that interview with Shawa was also aired on BBC Radio 4 on the same evening.

After that long and very sympathetic interview, listeners heard excerpts from the interviews with Ghazi Hamad and Michael Oren aired in the previous edition of the programme. Franks then quoted casualty figures provided by UNOCHA before introducing the Israeli journalist Anshell Pfeffer on the topic of ceasefire ‘negotiations’.

Towards the end of the programme (49:47) Franks spoke with the BBC’s Tom Bateman and listeners heard for the first time about the anti-tank missile attack on the Israeli bus, the fact that there had been direct hits on homes in some Israeli towns, the fact that Israel’s strikes were directed at “militant sites” and that two “militants” as they were dubbed by Bateman had been killed in the northern Gaza Strip.

In short, over 24 hours following the incident near Khan Younis and hours after the unprecedented barrage of missile attacks against Israeli civilians had commenced, ‘Newshour’ listeners had heard from two Gaza Strip residents, one Hamas spokesman (twice), one Israeli MK (twice) and one Israeli journalist. They had not however heard from any Israelis affected by the attacks. The programmes had repeatedly led listeners to believe that just one of the seven Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis was a member of Hamas, while failing to clarify that in fact all were members of terrorist factions.

In part two of this post we will review the following day’s editions of ‘Newshour’.

 

 

BBC erases crucial background from report on Jerusalem election

On October 30th millions of Israelis went to vote for their preferred representatives in elections for 54 regional councils, 122 local councils and 75 municipalities. Understandably, that local story did not receive any BBC coverage – with one exception.

Listeners to the October 30th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ programme heard a report from Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman which was introduced by presenter Martha Kearney (from 47:59 here) as follows:

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

Kearney: “Elections are taking place today in Jerusalem for a new mayor and city council. For the first time a Palestinian’s on the ballot running for a city hall seat. It’s proving a controversial move in perhaps the world’s most contested city, divided by its largely Jewish population in the west and Palestinians in the east. The latter have broadly boycotted elections for the city authorities since 1967 when Israel captured and annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally. Here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Kearney’s claim that this is “the first time” that an Arab resident of Jerusalem has run in local elections is inaccurateAs usual BBC audiences were not provided with any background information concerning the nineteen-year Jordanian occupation and unrecognised annexation of parts of the city or the circumstances which prevailed at the time when “Israel captured” those areas. 

Bateman began his report with some scene-setting and signposting.

Bateman: “I joined Amar Awad for an uphill task: the daily school run.”

Awad: “Yeah we are going up to the school of my girls…”

Bateman: “Uh, so you climb over these chairs and over the wall – this breezeblock. OK, and then to a kind of dirt path.”

Awad: “It’s very hard for them because there is no service buses to take them and it’s dangerous. It’s an image that you don’t see in a Jewish neighbourhood.”

Bateman: “In West Jerusalem.”

Awad: “In West Jerusalem, yes.”

Bateman: “It is a common complaint among the more than 300 thousand Palestinians of East Jerusalem. They pay the same council taxes as people in the west but speak of the injustice of neglected services, poor infrastructure, even home demolitions in some cases for lacking planning permits.” […]

Of course people who build without planning permission in municipalities around the world would also likely be subject to demolition orders.

Bateman: “On this, the eve of elections for Jerusalem mayor and city hall, Amar addresses a taboo: that he is thinking of voting. Historically nearly all East Jerusalemite Palestinians boycott the ballot. They see voting as legitimising Israeli control. And here is a man at the centre of Amar’s dilemma: Ramadan Dabash – a Palestinian born in East Jerusalem the year before Israel captured it, giving its Arab inhabitants only resident and not citizen status. He’s on the ballot leading a Palestinian party for seats at city hall. This is a first and he’s promising to demand better services.”

Bateman’s failure to clarify to listeners that residents of east Jerusalem are entitled to apply for Israeli citizenship – and that Ramadan Dabash is one of those who does hold Israeli citizenship – obviously misleads BBC audiences.

Dabash: “I will change all the situation here in East Jerusalem. I’m the first one. I want to make history.”

Bateman: “Of course the Palestinians that have opposed you, that believe you shouldn’t be doing this, say it goes way beyond services: that this is about what it represents. They see it as normalising an occupation.”

Dabash: “Look, if you want to talk about the problem here – occupation, normalisation, Israelisation – so maybe the solution is come 100 years more. We are 51 years until this time. Nobody take care of us.”

Notably, Bateman made no effort to enlighten listeners as to the identity of “the Palestinians that have opposed” Dabash and similarly inclined Jerusalemites. He did however make sure to squeeze the US president into the story.

Bateman: “Meanwhile in downtown West Jerusalem the election bandwagon was trying to move. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu got stuck in a packed Yehuda market [sic – actually Mahane Yehuda market] with his favourite candidate Ze’ev Elkin. The Israeli right-wing feels the wind in its sails, powered by President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The nationalists who balk at the Palestinian vision for their capital in East Jerusalem like to talk of a unified city, meaning under Israeli administration.”  

In contrast to Bateman’s “wind in its sails” portrayal, Ze’ev Elkin’s mayoral bid failed.

Bateman next inadequately introduced a contributor from the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research.

Bateman: “Lior Schillat is a former Israeli government advisor turned think-tank director.”

Schillat: “The way we work in modern democracies nowadays is that when there is a representation there is also a support and attention of the municipality to what’s happening. What’s happening in Jerusalem is that one-third of the city does not have those representatives that wake up in the morning and make the phone call to the mayor.”

Presumably referring to a survey carried out earlier this year by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bateman went on to inadequately introduce the founder of the political NGO PASSIA.

Bateman: “Some polling suggests a large number of East Jerusalemites would be prepared to vote for the local authority. There’s been some new Israeli government investment in the city’s east. But the boycott is likely to stick says the Palestinian academic Mahdi Abdul Hadi.”

Abdul Hadi: “Today after 51 years they are using one Palestinian who claim as a citizen of Israel to run for election. People will not vote because this is Israelisation. We are not consider as people at all. They are taking our history, our culture, our heritage and claiming this is a Jewish land and not a Palestinian land.”

Failing to explain to his listeners that second derogatory reference to “Israelisation” – the fact that increasing numbers of Arab Jerusalemites want to participate in Israeli economic and political life – and making no effort to challenge Abdul Hadi’s overtly projective propaganda, Bateman closed his report.

Bateman: “The political horizons for city councils may rarely go beyond schools and streetlights and new pavements but Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and so do questions over today’s election.”

The same report was repeated on BBC World Service radio in the October 30th afternoon edition of ‘Newshour‘ where it was introduced by Razia Iqbal (from 08:23 here) as follows:

Iqbal: “Now, a city mayoral race and city council election may not be deemed to be of international import but these elections are taking place in Jerusalem – probably the most contested and potently political city in the world. For the first time the ballot paper includes a Palestinian who is running for a city hall seat. It’s proving a highly controversial move in a city divided by its largely Jewish population in the west and Palestinians in the east. The latter have broadly boycotted elections for the city authorities since 1967 when Israel captured and annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally.”

The report was also repeated in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day. Presenter Tim Franks introduced the item (from 18:25 here) thus:

Franks: “We don’t often cover local elections here on Newshour, what with our big-boned global agenda. But the elections that took place today in Jerusalem are happening or did happen in one of the most prized and contested cities in the world. For the first time the ballot paper included a Palestinian who was running for a city hall seat and that proved highly controversial in a city divided between its largely Jewish population in the west and Palestinians in the east. Those Palestinians have by and large boycotted elections for the city authorities since 1967 when Israel captured and annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally.”

As we see, in all three of these broadcasts the participation of a resident of Sur Baher in municipal elections in Jerusalem was described to BBC audiences both in the UK and around the world as “highly controversial”. Despite that, the BBC made no effort to clarify the identity of the parties holding that view.

BBC audiences were told nothing of Palestinian Authority intervention in local Israeli elections. They were not told that in August of this year the official PA daily newspaper announced that:

“The Palestinian Supreme Fatwa Council issued a religious ruling that bans running or voting in the occupation’s municipal elections in occupied Jerusalem… it emphasized that voting or running in the municipal elections is forbidden by religious law, since this matter is subject to the rules of benefit and damage – which the sources of authority for estimating them are the knowledgeable religious scholars who know what the results will be – and there is no doubt at all that the damages that will be caused as a result of the participation are huge compared to the benefits.”

Neither were BBC radio listeners told that Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party put out multiple social media posts instructing potential voters to “boycott the occupation’s municipal elections”.

In other words the BBC chose to tell selected parts of a story while once again concealing crucial information in a report which was repeatedly presented as being about a “contested city” and in which the US president got more mentions than the intimidation of Jerusalem voters and interference in Israel’s democratic process by the Palestinian Authority.

Related Articles:

BBC silent on intimidation of voters in Jerusalem

Accuracy and impartiality failures in BBC report on Jerusalem elections

 

 

 

BBC’s ME editor continues his ‘Bedouin village’ narrative – part two

As documented in part one of this post, on September 17th viewers of two BBC television channels saw a narrative-driven report blighted by important omissions on the subject of the Bedouin encampment called Khan al Ahmar produced by the corporation’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

On the same day listeners to two different BBC radio stations heard an audio version of Bowen’s report and the following day it was heard yet again by listeners to BBC World Service radio. The almost identical introductions to the report gave clear signposting to BBC audiences in all three cases. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

1) BBC World Service, ‘Newshour‘, September 17th, presented by Tim Franks, from 45:05 here.

Franks: “A tiny Palestinian village made of tents, shacks and with a school built from old tyres and mud faces demolition by Israel. Ten years of legal battles have ended with the Supreme Court authorising the destruction of the village called Khan al Ahmar. Supporters of Israel’s settlement of the occupied territories applaud what they say is Israel’s right to build on its own land. They’re delighted also by the backing that they’ve had from President Trump. Most of the world though regards Israel’s presence in the West Bank as an occupation and that the Jewish settlements are illegal under international law. The consequent fear is that the destruction of Khan al Ahmar will open the way to more building for Israeli settlers which will in turn split the West Bank and make the two-state solution – an independent Palestine alongside Israel – impossible. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports from Khan al Ahmar.”

2) BBC Radio 4, ‘The World Tonight’, September 17th, presented by Ritula Shah, from 17:35 here.

Shah: “A tiny Palestinian village made of tents, shacks and with a school built from old tyres and mud faces demolition by Israel. Ten years of legal battles have ended with the Supreme Court there authorising the destruction of the village called Khan al Ahmar. Supporters of Israel’s settlement of the occupied territories applaud what they say is Israel’s right to build on its own land. They’re delighted too by the backing they’ve had from President Trump. But most of the world believes Israel is an occupier in the West Bank and that the Jewish settlements there are illegal. They fear the destruction of Khan al Ahmar will open the way to more building for Jews that will split the West Bank and make the two-state solution – an independent Palestine alongside Israel – absolutely and definitively impossible. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports from Khan al Ahmar.”

3) BBC World Service, ‘World Update’, September 18th, presented by Dan Damon, from 05:10 here.

Damon: “A tiny Palestinian village made of tents, shacks and with a school built from old tyres and mud faces demolition by Israel. Ten years of legal battles have ended with the Supreme Court authorising the destruction of Khan al Ahmar. It’s a village which supporters of Israel’s settlement of the occupied territories say is in the way. They applaud what they say is Israel’s right to build on its own land and they’re delighted that the backing has come from President Trump. Most of the world believes Israel’s an occupier in the West Bank and that Jewish settlements are illegal. They fear the destruction of Khan al Ahmar will open the way to more building for Jews that will split the West Bank and make the two-state solution – an independent Palestine alongside Israel – absolutely and definitively impossible. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports from Khan al Ahmar.”

As we see, all three of those introductions gave a context-free presentation of ‘occupation’ – with no explanation that Khan al Ahmar is located in Area C and hence under the terms of the Oslo Accords is under Israeli control pending final status negotiations – and a partial representation of ‘international law’. Significantly, all three also promoted the contiguity myth seen amplified in an earlier report by Bowen – despite the fact that any potential building in the area in which Khan al Ahmar is located would in no way render the two-state solution “absolutely and definitively impossible” as claimed by the BBC.

In other words, even before Bowen began his report, a politicised and partisan narrative was in evidence.

The first part of Bowen’s report had been recorded on September 14th.

Bowen: “A small group of demonstrators has surrounded an Israeli army bulldozer at the entrance to the village of Khan al Ahmar. Not very many of them but this is a symbolic and important issue for the Israelis and for the Palestinians. Khan al Ahmar is a small – very small – Bedouin village on the main road down from Jerusalem to Jericho and the Dead Sea. It’s just a settlement of tents and shacks but like so many of these small disputes about land and territory, it’s attracted a lot of international attention.”

Obviously one reason for that “international attention” is the fact that political NGOs and foreign media have – like Bowen himself – made the story a cause célèbre. Bowen then went on to give an account of events at Khan al Ahmar which – as was the case in his filmed report – contradicts accounts of other journalists at the scene.

Bowen: “What they seem to be doing is blocking alternative routes into the village so there’s only one left open and that means that when they come to demolish this place, they will be able to control everybody who goes in and everybody who goes out much more easily.”

In contrast, AP reported that the bulldozers were clearing rock barriers that had been “set up to slow demolition” by local and foreign activists. Bowen went on to pass his unprofessional judgement on the proceedings.

Bowen: “Somebody’s laying down in front of it. There’s a bit of a scuffle going on. A few demonstrators trying to stop the bulldozer and the paramilitary police try and push the demonstrators back. It’s very symbolic. Really there’s no particular need for them to do it at this particular moment – move the bulldozer – and also the demonstrators know they can’t really stop the military. But both sides play their part in what goes on here.”

Listeners then heard a conversation between Bowen and an unidentified man.

Man: “I can’t speak now ‘cos I am breathing. I am tired now.”

Bowen: “Yes but tell me how…”

Man: “To open the way.”

Bowen: “You want to open the way?”

Man: “Yes. Only I can speak that they are criminals. They are the thieves of our souls and spirits.”

Bowen: “They’re gonna come back though you know if you open this; they’ll bring the bulldozer back.”

Man: “If they come back we are all ready to this. Our land mean our blood. Our land mean our blood.”

Bowen of course did not bother to clarify to BBC audiences that the man’s use of the word “our” is inaccurate because the Jahalin tribe does not own the land on which the Khan al Ahmar encampment was set up. Failing to inform listeners of the relocation package offered to the residents – including free building plots – and the Palestinian Authority’s use of the Bedouin as political pawns, Bowen went on to claim that they had “settled there in the 1950s” despite there being photographic evidence to contradict that claim.

Bowen: “The people of Khan al Ahmar have refused to move to another site. They settled there in the 1950s after they were expelled from the new Israel. Britain, France and Germany among others have warned that demolishing the village will make it even harder to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The UN’s warned that Israel would be committing a grave breach of international humanitarian law, which is a war crime.”

Following that repeat amplification of the contiguity myth and the notion that the relocation of squatters from an illegally constructed encampment on land to which they have no claim is a “war crime”, listeners heard the sound of singing.

Bowen: “As they talk the conflict grinds on. Hundreds of Jews at the funeral of an Israeli-American stabbed to death by a 17 year-old Palestinian boy and more Palestinians killed on Gaza’s border with Israel. Naftali Bennett is Israel’s minister of education and the leader of the nationalist right. He doesn’t believe in the two-state solution.”

Bennett: “The Palestinians’ hope to wipe out Israel: as long as that hope endures terror will continue. When they give up on the hope to eliminate Israel and realise we’re here to stay, they’re here to stay, we’ll see terror less.”

Bowen: “President Trump has made a difference. What kind of difference?”

Bennett: “He has. President Trump has brought fresh thinking to a region that’s been fairly stagnant in terms of its methodologies and ideas. What Trump is telling the Palestinians: if you think you’ll continue inciting against Jews and killing Jews and somehow time is on your side, you’re wrong. You’ve got to act. You’ve got to move. Let’s make peace. Don’t wait on the sidelines because time is not on your side.”

Listeners next heard recordings made by Bowen on September 13th.

Bowen: “President Trump believes pressure works and they’re feeling it here at the Augusta Victoria hospital in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. The president has cut the $25 million the US was paying Palestinian hospitals in this part of the city. I’m in the pediatric dialysis department – children’s cancer’s just down the corridor – and I’m with Walid Nammour the CEO here at Augusta Victoria.”

Nammour: “We could not believe that sick children – children with cancer – will be used by any civil state, by an American government as an element for negotiations that were putting pressures to achieve political results or gains. It’s incredible.”

Bowen: “Well the Americans say it’s Palestinians’ fault for not taking part properly in talks and also for taking cases to the International Criminal Court.”

Nammour: “This is politics. Why would a child who has cancer pay the price? Our life has become terrible of catastrophic level since the Trump administration took over. I don’t know what heart he has this man to stop medications from this child. This is an administration that is seeking peace treaty?”

As in his filmed report, neither Bowen nor his interviewee bothered to inform BBC audiences that by September 9th – the day after the US announcement and at least four days before this interview was held – the Palestinian Authority had already announced that it would make up the deficit.

Neither did Bowen raise the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s financial priorities – including the payments to convicted terrorists – when he went to get more backing for his chosen narrative in Jericho.

Bowen: “At his office in hot and dusty Jericho the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat despairs about the impact of Donald Trump on Palestinians and Israelis.”

Erekat: “I think there is no longer a Palestinian moderate camp. There is no longer an Israeli peace camp. He succeeded in getting Palestinians and Israelis off the raft of the two-state solution. Now the kids in my neighbourhood are being taught by Trump’s policies that if you claim something, grab it. This is what he’s teaching and educating and telling in his Twitters every morning to every child in Palestine. If you’re man enough, if you’re woman enough, don’t be silly [and] wait for courts or solving problems by peaceful means or negotiations; grab it! And Trump is succeeding in making Palestinians despair and desperation will lead to desperate acts.”

With apparently nothing to say about Erekat’s barely veiled threats or the Palestinian education system which teaches glorification of terrorism and negates Israel, Bowen closed his report.

Bowen: “The row over Khan al Ahmar touches the big issues of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But it’s also about families who most likely will lose their homes, children who will lose their school and a community that might be dispersed. This conflict has caused great suffering across generations and it seems that more will soon be inflicted on the people of Khan al Ahmar.”

Once again Bowen deliberately refrained from informing listeners that if the residents of Khan al Ahmar had not been exploited by the Palestinian Authority for entirely political purposes they could, like other members of their tribe, have relocated to a site nearby offering free plots of land, utilities and a school, with no need whatsoever for the community to ‘suffer’. Those facts, however, do not help advance the political narrative to which Jeremy Bowen has self-conscripted and so in these three radio items – just as in his previous filmed and audio reports – they were erased from the one-sided and politicised picture he presented.

Related Articles:

BBC’s ME editor continues his ‘Bedouin village’ narrative – part one

BBC’s Bowen recycles the ‘contiguity’ myth on World Service radio

Omission and imbalance in BBC report on ‘Bedouin village’

THE LA TIMES, THE BEDOUIN OF KHAN AL AHMAR AND ‘THEIR LAND’  (CAMERA)

MEDIA EMBRACE E1 FALSEHOODS  (CAMERA)

 

BBC double standards in reporting social media incitement evident again

As we have seen in the past BBC reporting on social media incitement to violence and/or glorification of terrorism differs depending on location.

Reviewing BBC reporting on social media incitement in Europe and Israel

In April of this year the BBC News website’s domestic pages reported the sentencing of a Salford man previously found guilty of “encouragement of terrorism”.

“Muslim convert Adam Wyatt, 48, admitted disseminating a terrorist publication that said “Britain must atone for its sins in Palestine” and posting on social media that jihad was an obligation for all Muslims.”

The following month the website reported the sentencing of a man from Sunderland who had previously pleaded guilty to similar offences.

“A shopkeeper who tweeted support for Islamic State (IS) and called for “death to Shias” has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Mohammed Zahir Khan, of Nora Street, Sunderland, had admitted encouraging terrorism, dissemination of a terror publication and stirring up religious hatred.”

Unsurprisingly, the BBC did not send a reporter to interview either of those men before they were sentenced. Neither did it promote the notion that they were put on trial because of their identity to millions of audience members or portray either of their cases as being about “free speech”.

However, when an Israeli-Arab woman was sentenced to five months in prison after having been convicted of incitement to violence in her poems and social media posts, the BBC News website amplified her claims of political persecution in a July 31st report titled “Dareen Tatour: Israeli Arab poet sentenced for incitement“.

“An Israeli Arab poet has been jailed for inciting violence and supporting a group banned as a terrorist organisation based on her online posts. […]

The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem says the poet’s case has become a cause celebre for free speech advocates and has drawn attention to a recent rise in Israeli arrests – of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank – accused of incitement or planning attacks online. […]

Following her sentencing, Tatour said that she was not surprised by the verdict.

“I expected prison and that’s what happened. I didn’t expect justice. The prosecution was political to begin with because I’m Palestinian, because it’s about free speech and I’m imprisoned because I’m Palestinian”, she told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.”

The BBC’s report also provides readers with two links to Tatour’s ‘poem’ – one a written version and the other a video.

On the same day the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ aired a pre-recorded translated interview with Tatour by Tim Franks (from 30:04 here). The story was similarly portrayed by presenter James Menendez as being about ‘free speech’. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Menendez: “To a case now that’s become a cause celebre for free speech advocates in Israel and beyond. Dareen Tatour is an Arab-Israeli poet living near Nazareth. In October 2015 she was arrested and subsequently charged with inciting violence and supporting a terrorist organisation. That’s because of her social media posts including one in which she read a poem called ‘Resist, my people, resist’ accompanied by footage of Palestinian protesters throwing stones at Israeli police. At that time tension was running high in Israel after a series of stabbing attacks by Palestinians. Well today, more than two and a half years on, Dareen Tatour has been sentenced for her crimes. The sentence was five months in prison. She’s already spent 3 months in prison and was then placed under house arrest. Well that prompted writers from around the world, including Alice Walker and Naomi Klein, to call for her release. Well on Monday Dareen spoke to Newshour’s Tim Franks who asked her first how she was feeling ahead of sentencing.”

During that interview BBC audiences around the world heard Tatour state that she does not think “there is any fairness in the Israeli justice system” and claim that she was being sentenced “only because I’m Palestinian. This is a political sentence”.

Listeners also heard her claim that she writes “about 70 years of occupation” with no effort made by Franks to explain to listeners what that phrase actually means. Similarly unchallenged was Tatour’s claim that she speaks about “the Israeli Zionist crimes against innocent people”.

When Franks raised the issue of one of her posts praising the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, she claimed that the “accusation is only based on a news story that I shared which mentions the Islamic Jihad” and “all I did was share the article”.

Haaretz however reported that her post said:

“Allah Akbar and Baruch Hashem, Islamic Jihad declared intifada throughout the whole West Bank and expansion to all Palestine. We should begin inside the Green Line” 

Franks then provided Tatour with the cue for her claim that she is “against all forms of violence” before asking her about her use of the word ‘shahid’ – martyr – while giving listeners the cumbersome explanation that:

“It is the word that is used to describe people who – Palestinian militants – who have lost their lives involved in militant activity”

Listeners then heard Tatour claim that “the word shahid that I use means victim” and twice state that “every martyr in Palestine is a victim”. She also made the false claim – unchallenged by Franks – that:

“More than a thousand people died in the last Gaza war – most of them children.”

Following that interview, James Menedez interviewed former Israeli MK Danny Ayalon, asking him first:

Menedez: “What is Israel doing locking up poets?”

As we see, while the BBC produces factual, judgement free reporting on people convicted of “encouragement of terrorism” in the UK, a similar story in Israel gets entirely different treatment. And so, the BBC’s double standards on terrorism persist.

 

 

 

BBC WS reports what the BBC website didn’t on the Argentina football story

As we saw yesterday, a BBC News website report concerning the Argentinian Football Association’s cancellation of a friendly match with Israel framed the background to the decision as being about “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza” and/or the fact that “Palestinians […] were angered by a decision to relocate the game” to Jerusalem.

Although the article was later amended to include the full quote from Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain rather than the truncated version used in earlier editions, the BBC News website still avoided telling its audiences about the threats received by Argentinian players and their families which were – according to the head of the Argentinian Football Association and the Argentinian foreign minister – the real reason for the game’s cancellation.

In contrast, listeners to the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on June 6th heard a more accurate version of the story (from 45:05 here) than the one presented by the BBC News website.

Presenter Tim Franks asked his interviewee – an Israeli journalist “with the Argentinian team at their training camp in Barcelona” – why the match was cancelled.

Franks: “The Argentinian team itself; ehm…why did they decide in the end – or why did their football association decide in the end – that they couldn’t go ahead with this friendly game?”

Emmanuel Elbaz-Phelps replied that “the official explanation was that the association – the football association of Argentina – doesn’t want to take any risk for the players” and also noted that:

Elbaz-Phelps: “But we also heard that the decision came yesterday afternoon [Tuesday, June 5th]  after the players were having a training session in the morning and there were some protesters and they heard them, they saw them and then they read everything going on in the news about the demonstrations also happening in Argentina and the players had this meeting; they had this talk and they decided they won’t go ahead with the game. Some actually told us that Messi was the person who first made the decision and – as the captain – so everybody was behind him. Another version says that he’s the captain but it was a group decision.”

Franks: “Because Lionel Messi himself was singled out by the head of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub, saying if Lionel Messi plays in Jerusalem, we will make sure that he is boycotted, he is targeted around the world.”

Elbaz-Phelps: “Yeah and even more there are reports that threats were made to Messi’s family and to the families of the players.”

Elbaz-Phelps reported having been told that “there were threats on the social media, they got letters and that the players were actually scared about the situation”.

Obviously there are BBC journalists who know that the reason for the cancellation of the match has nothing to do with “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza”. The question that therefore arises is why the BBC News website’s report – which, unlike the Newshour report will remain permanently available to the public – has not been amended accordingly.  

Related Articles:

How BBC News framed the Argentina-Israel football match story

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR again – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the February 19th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an interview (from 30:06 here) with UNRWA’s commissioner-general Pierre Krahenbul.

Having failed to challenge Krahenbuhl’s unevidenced claim that an UNRWA education is “an investment in regional security”, presenter Tim Franks next provided him with the cue for dismissal of one of the prime criticisms of the UN agency.

Franks: “What do you say to the other criticism that is often levelled at UNRWA – particularly of your work inside Gaza where there’s a huge proportion of the refugees – and that is that – maybe inevitably, maybe willingly, you have allowed yourself to become too close to the authority that runs Gaza which is Hamas which is proscribed by an awful lot of countries – most of the West sees it as a terrorist organisation – and that the split between what UNRWA does and what Hamas does has become blurred?”

Krahenbuhl: “Working in conflict zones means that you operate in proximity to groups that are either governmental armed forces, that are non-state armed groups so that’s by definition the work. One of the things that you do also is to ensure the neutrality of your work by every means possible. And so just to take the example of Gaza, last year during repair works to two of our schools we discovered tunnels that had been built below those schools. Now we publicly condemned Hamas for those actions and that is a measure of the robustness with which we pursue our policies of neutrality. Now if anybody however can describe to me who would be the alternative provider of education to 270 thousand students in the Gaza Strip who go to UNRWA schools and who among other things are taught a human rights curriculum with focus on tolerance and co-existence, then I’m happy to be told what that alternative is, because there is none.”

As readers may recall, the BBC failed to report the story of those tunnels beneath UNRWA schools at the time. BBC audiences are also unaware of the case last year in which an UNRWA employee was elected to the Hamas political bureau in the Gaza Strip because the BBC chose to ignore that story too. Listeners would therefore not be able to put Krahenbuhl’s flimsy claim that the statement his organisation issued on the topic of those tunnels is evidence of a ‘robust’ approach to ‘neutrality’ into its correct context and Franks made no effort whatsoever to question him further on the long-standing issue of UNRWA employees with links to terror organisations or support for terrorism and promotion of antisemitism on social media by UNRWA staff.

Franks closed the interview by encouraging Krahenbuhl to give “a message for those listening in Washington”.

Franks: “You say that you’re turning to other donors to try and make up what might be a pretty big shortfall in funding as a result of this change in US policy. If you had a message for those listening in Washington about what this dramatic cut in funding would mean, what would it be?”

Krahenbuhl: “The idea that people have to have in mind is to think about what would it be for one’s own family if we faced a situation of conflict where we’re worried about our future and suddenly the key provider of education, services, is no longer able to deliver that and, you know, yet another avenue or horizon is shut. People have to think about in these terms. When you are in the Middle East today, one of the worst things for the Palestinians – but that affects everybody in the region – is that there is no political horizon, there is no personal horizon. There is no freedom of movement, no jobs to be found. We have some of the most, you know, extraordinarily courageous students probably on the planet. I handed over a certificate to a 15 year-old student in Gaza two years ago who had survived an air strike on her home, had spent seven months in a coma. When she woke up she was told by the doctor that her mother and one of her brothers was killed in the strike and yet she was one of the highest performing students in our school. And she has an outlook on life. She wants to be recognised for her skills, for her abilities. She doesn’t want to be seen by the world as only a refugee or a victim. And I think what we need in this region is to rediscover the humanity in people. You know I can…if I believed that polarisation would lead to a solution or to an improvement, I would embrace polarisation but I don’t see that. I see humanity being rediscovered in everybody as being the way forward.”

Franks: “Pierre Krahenbuhl: the boss of UNRWA, the UN agency which supports millions of Palestinian refugees.”

Obviously this interview was not intended to provide BBC audiences with information which would enhance their understanding of the criticism of UNRWA’s mission and performance. Rather, the BBC chose – not for the first time – to provide the UN agency’s head with a friendly platform from which to promote his PR campaign in a near monologue that went unchallenged in any serious manner.  

Related Articles:

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR yet again – part one

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR yet again – part one

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC’s coverage of the US administration’s announcement on January 16th that it would be withholding part of its donation to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has been extensive.

BBC News report on UNRWA funding story omits relevant background

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part one

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part two

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part one

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part two

Three BBC articles on US aid promote an irrelevant false comparison

BBC’s Yolande Knell amplifies UNRWA’s PR campaign

However, the BBC’s reports have consistently failed to provide its funding public with information concerning the multiple issues that have made UNRWA so controversial or conduct any in-depth examination of the agency’s purpose, its agenda, its record or its efficiency.

UNRWA’s commissioner-general, Pierre Krahenbuhl, recently visited London – according to the Guardian, in order “to brief Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt”. As the Guardian’s report shows, one of the main talking points in Krahenbuhl’s efforts to solicit donations to his organisation is the claim that cuts to UNRWA’s services are liable to increase radicalisation.

“Pierre Krähenbühl, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency, added that cuts in support to the already impoverished and demoralised population his organisation supports – many of them victims of recent conflict – risked radicalising a new generation of young Palestinians. […]

“I have just come from the Munich security conference. At every seminar, people were asking the same question: about security and how we combat radicalisation. If you want to ask us how to avoid radicalising Palestinian youth, then it is not by cutting $300m in our funding.””

Another port of call on Krahenbuhl’s London trip was the studios of the BBC World Service – which is of course partly funded by the UK government. The February 19th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item described in the synopsis as follows:

“How will UN’s Palestinian refugee agency make up for loss in funding from the US?”

Presenter Tim Franks introduced the nearly seven-minute-long item (from 30:06 here) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Franks: “Donald Trump, you may have noticed, Tweets a lot. One of his more consequential came right at the start of the year – January the 2nd to be precise. ‘We pay the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect’ he Tweeted. It was a sentiment he gave voice to at the Davos Economic Forum later that month.”

Recording of Trump: “When they disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice-president to see them and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support – tremendous numbers; numbers that nobody understands. That money’s on the table. That money’s not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”

Franks: “Well the practical result of that frustration is that now the vast bulk of US funding is to be withheld from UNRWA – the UN agency set up to look after what are now 5 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza and across the Middle East. Pierre Krahenbuhl is the boss of UNRWA. He’s currently in London.”

Predictably Franks refrained from informing listeners that the reason there are “now 5 million Palestinian refugees” is that, unlike the UN agency which takes care of all other refugees, UNRWA does not have an active program for “local integration” of refugees where they now reside – even if they live in Palestinian controlled areas – nor “resettlement” in third countries.

Listeners then heard the following conversation:

Krahenbuhl: “The United States has been the single largest and also very predictable and generous donor over decades and in 2017 contributed 364 million [$] to UNRWA and for 2018 has announced a contribution of 60 million so it’s a difference of 300 million. And that has become effective. This 60 million were transferred to UNRWA and that is the indication that we have for this year.”

Franks: “So what are you going to have to cut as a result of that?”

Krahenbuhl: “Well first of all I’m going to mobilise other donors and we’re looking for new funding lines and so we did two things: of course on the one hand with member states and the other, we launched a global public campaign called ‘Dignity is Priceless’ to tap into a lot of sympathy and solidarity that we have witnessed following the announcement by the US and a lot of people who are prepared to come and support.”

Franks: “But are you doing what is partly behind this move by the US – or at least how President Trump has explained it – which is that it is time for other countries, other donors to play a bigger role?”

Krahenbul then raised his ‘radicalisation’ talking point.

Krahenbuhl: “I take your point about the issue of redistribution but you know I don’t have, as commissioner-general, the luxury of having reserves. The only thing that I have is to go back to the member states of the [UN] General Assembly that gave UNRWA the mandate in 1949 to say ‘this is the situation I’m faced with – we need to find solutions’. Because what is at stake is not UNRWA as an organisation. What’s at stake is access to education for 525 thousand students. You know I was just at the Munich Security Conference. You cannot go to a single corridor in the hotel that hosted that without somebody asking ‘are you concerned about further radicalisation in the Middle East?’. So having 525 thousand Palestinian students, boys and girls, who are hoping for a better future no longer having access to education is certainly not an investment in regional security.”

That talking point was not however subjected to any critical examination by Tim Franks even though it would obviously have been helpful to the BBC’s funding public – who also of course fund the UK government Foreign Office which Krahenbuhl came to “brief” – to know what evidence there is to back the idea that nearly seventy years of UNRWA activity has countered radicalisation among the people it registers as refugees.

The current head of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, grew up – as the BBC knows – in an UNRWA administered refugee camp and attended an UNRWA run school. Hamas’ current leader in the Gaza Strip – convicted murderer Yahya Sinwar – likewise grew up in an UNRWA refugee camp. One of Hamas’ founders – Ibrahim al-Makadmeh – spent his childhood in UNRWA’s Jabaliya camp and attended an UNRWA school, as did former Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades leader Saleh Shehadeh.

Nevertheless, Tim Franks made no effort to inform ‘Newshour’ listeners of those and many other examples of members of Palestinian terror organisations who contradict Krahenbuhl’s claim that an UNRWA education is “an investment in regional security”.

The rest of Franks’ interview with UNRWA’s commissioner-general will be discussed in part two of this post.

Five years of BBC reports on one story show impartiality failure

For the past five years the BBC has been reporting on a proposed housing project in the south Jerusalem district of Givat HaMatos.

Givat HaMatos

In December 2012 BBC audiences were told that:

“…on Wednesday, Jerusalem’s planning committee granted approval for 2,610 homes in a new settlement in East Jerusalem called Givat Hamatos – the first to be built in the area since 1997.”

And, quoting the EU:

“If implemented, these plans would jeopardise the possibility of a contiguous, sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian State and of Jerusalem as the future capital of both Israel and Palestine”.

In October 2014 the BBC told audiences that:

“Israel has been criticised this month for approving new settlement construction in Givat Hamatos neighbourhood in East Jerusalem”

Two months later, in December 2014, the BBC’s Tim Franks revisited the same story.

“When I was posted here a few years ago as Middle East correspondent, one of the dominant stories was over the expansion of Jewish settlements on territory which Israel had occupied in the aftermath of the 1967 war. Undesirable if not downright illegal, said the rest of the world. Israel, for its part, said that the status of the territory was a matter of dispute and in the meantime it needed a place for its burgeoning population to live. So much might be familiar but in the last couple of months the announcement of a big new building development in occupied East Jerusalem has been described as a game-changer and brought furious international criticism. Why?”

Audiences heard just one view on the topic from a representative of the political NGO ‘Ir Amim’ which has received funding from foreign sources – including from the EU.

In late January 2017 Tim Franks returned to the same location and BBC audiences again heard one view of the story; this time from the inadequately introduced founder of that same political NGO.

Franks: “This is Givat HaMatos – an area of scrubland really – on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Just a couple of kilometres behind me to the south is the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. And I’m here with a man called Danny Seidemann – he’s an Israeli attorney and specialist on the mapping of Jerusalem.”

Seidemann: “Givat HaMatos is pretty unique. It’s one of two or three schemes that we call a Doomsday settlement. These settlements are in and of themselves capable of making the two-state solution impossible.”

None of the BBC’s various reports on Givat Hamatos has informed audiences that part of the planned housing units have been ear-marked for Arab residents of the adjacent neighbourhood of Beit Safafa.

To date, not one brick has been laid in the proposed project on which the BBC has already produced four reports and the JCPA recently published a backgrounder that explains why that is the case.

“The plan to build a Jewish residential neighborhood in Givat Hamatos in southern Jerusalem was already approved by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee in 2014. However, it has been frozen for four years.

Under pressure from the United States, Germany, and other European Union countries, the issuing of the construction tenders has been suspended time after time. […]

Germany is playing a central role in pressuring Israel not to build Givat Hamatos; other European countries oppose it as well. In October 2014 French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the decision to build homes in Givat Hamatos threatened the two-state solution: “One cannot claim to support a solution and at the same time do things against without consequences being drawn.” In October 2017, the European Union requested clarifications from Israel about plans for housing units in Hamatos, saying that such building “is likely to harm severely the continuity and the existence of a future Palestinian state.””

While the views of representatives of an EU funded political NGO have been amplified in half of the BBC’s four reports on the story and the EU itself quoted in one other, audiences have not heard any alternative views whatsoever.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“We must apply due impartiality to all our subject matter.  However, there are particular requirements for ‘controversial subjects’, whenever they occur in any output, including drama, entertainment and sport. […]

When dealing with ‘controversial subjects’, we must ensure a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight and prominence, particularly when the controversy is active.  Opinion should be clearly distinguished from fact.” [emphasis added]

Obviously BBC reporting on the proposed housing project in Givat HaMatos throughout the past five years has not complied with those guidelines. Rather, it has exclusively promoted monochrome framing of the story that has denied audiences access to information and perspectives that contradict the BBC’s chosen narrative.