BBC R4’s Mishal Husain sells her listeners short with self-indulgence

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on November 13th heard two items relating to the events in Israel and the Gaza Strip which began the previous day. The second of those items comprised a report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman (which will be discussed separately) and an interview with an Israeli MK (from 2:36:32 here) which was conducted by presenter Mishal Husain in the confrontational style she so often employs when speaking to Israelis. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “On the line now is Sharren Haskel, member of the Israeli parliament for the Likud party and a member of the foreign affairs and defence committee. […] Will the airstrikes continue?”

MK Haskel explained that that depends on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad because “the more they continue to fire rockets towards Israeli civilians […] we will continue to defend our people.” Husain quickly interrupted her interviewee in order to give her own view, which is apparently that it is the Israeli response to hundreds of rocket attacks against civilians which risks escalating the conflict rather than the attacks themselves.

Husain [interrupts]: “Because the risk from what you’re saying is very great. Islamic Jihad is not the main militant group in Gaza. If these airstrikes continue – and we already know that people have…eh…have died from them – then Hamas will be further drawn in and then you have the prospect of an all-out conflict.”

Haskel: “Well until now we’ve identified 12 dead. We were able to actually identify as well particularly those people so at least seven of them are from the militants of the Islamic Jihad, three of them are from the brigade of Al Quds. All of them are military, all of them are terrorists. All of our attacks are targeted towards specific people who are terrorising the life of Israeli civilians…”

Husain [interrupts]: “What was the crime of the woman who died – the wife of the Islamic Jihad commander?”

Haskel: “Well Baha Abu al-Ata was neutralised because he was a terrorist instigator in Gaza. He conspired and planned many attacks and actually was having Israeli…”

Husain [interrupts]: “Her crimes.”

Haskel: “…civilians. Well unfortunately when there is a ticking bomb and when we know that he’s planning a major attack on Israel and we need to neutralise him, we try to minimise as much as possible…”

Husain [interrupts]: “Although you targeted him in his…although you targeted him in his home which is somewhere that he’s likely to be with his wife.”

Haskel: “I just want to finish. Unfortunately there’s a price for it and we try to minimise it as much as possible any kind of civilian casualty. When there’s one person who is a civilian casualty, with to say that this is your husband; you are participating in the exact same acts. That was the only opportunity that our defence forces had to neutralise him. So when there’s one…”

Making no effort whatsoever to inform listeners of the fact that terrorists often use their families and other civilians as human shields, Husain then proceeded to try to cast doubts on Israel’s intelligence.

Husain [interrupts]: “What was the…what was the immediate threat that he posed? You mentioned there was a ticking bomb so what was the intelligence?”

Haskel: “Well he was in the midst of planning a major attack on Israel.”

Husain: “Right. And you know that for sure, do you? Because it is rare…it is rare for…ehm…for a targeted killing these days to happen in this way.”

Haskel pointed out that Israeli intelligence is not questioned when it relates to attacks on European soil and went on:

Haskel: “But when it’s targeted towards Israelis and not Europeans then you come and you question it. I can tell you for sure; I sit in the Israeli defence committee of the parliament and from the intelligence that we gather there was a major attack planned by this person.”

Mishal Husain closed the interview at that point.

One would of course expect that the BBC would make the most of an interview with an Israeli official during a time of conflict to meet its public purpose remit of enhancing audience understanding of the story. However, as we have often witnessed in the past, one of the recurrent phenomena associated with media coverage of outbreaks of conflict between Israel and terrorists in the Gaza Strip is the proliferation of journalists who suddenly transform into self-appointed ‘experts’ in military strategy and laws of armed combat.

Obviously Mishal Husain’s aggressive yet clueless questioning concerning the PIJ commander’s wife and her efforts to cast doubts on the intelligence behind the operation were not at all intended to provide listeners with a better understanding of the background to the topic but were entirely self-serving.

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BBC’s domestic audience sold short on Labour antisemitism yet again

The October 17th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ included an item (from 12:51 here) concerning the earlier announcement by MP Dame Louise Ellman that she had left the UK Labour party.

Newsreader: “The veteran Labour MP Dame Louise Ellman has quit the party, saying that Jeremy Corbyn is not fit to be prime minister. In a statement on Twitter Dame Louise said the party was no longer a safe place for Jews. Jason Kaye reports.”

Kaye: “Dame Louise, who is Jewish, has long been vocal in her opposition to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour and she’s faced calls to step down from members of her local party in Liverpool Riverside. In the statement tonight she said her decision had been truly agonising but said she had to take a stand because she could not advocate a government led by Mr Corbyn, who she said would pose a threat to the country. She said that as a back-bencher Jeremy Corbyn had consorted with antisemites, Holocaust deniers and terrorists and under his leadership Jewish members had been bullied, abused and driven out of the party. The MP for the neighbouring Wavertree constituency, Luciana Berger, quit Labour in February making similar claims. She’s now joined the Liberal Democrats but Dame Louise, who’s been a Labour member for 55 years, says she won’t join another party and hopes that she can return to her political home under different leadership.”

Following that portrayal of parts of the MP’s statement (which notably avoided her reference to the ongoing investigation by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission), Kaye proceeded to give completely uncritical amplification to a statement put out by a Labour party spokesperson.

Kaye: “Labour said the party would continue to take robust action to root out antisemitism in the party and wider society. It said Mr Corbyn had consistently supported struggles for human rights and justice around the world and had made the right calls.”

A slightly edited version of Jason Kaye’s report – once again including uncritical amplification of that Labour party statement – was also heard by listeners to a news bulletin aired (from 1:02:25 here) during the October 17th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme.  Shortly afterwards (from 1:14:56), audiences heard presenter Mishal Husain interview Dame Louise Ellman.

Although the MP twice raised the topic of the ongoing EHRC investigation into antisemitism in the Labour party, Mishal Husain interrupted her interviewee in order to promote the notion to listeners that things have improved.

Husain [interrupts]: “Are we also not now in a different place, would you say, on Labour’s handling of antisemitism is that they now have been public about the number of complaints they’ve received? Ehm…earlier this year Jeremy Corbyn said the complaints system essentially needed to be toughened up so that…so that Labour could confront what he called the poison of antisemitism.”

Ellman: “Well it’s very clear that Jeremy Corbyn – the head of the Labour party – has really struggled to accept that there is any such thing as antisemitism within the Labour party and…”

Husain [interrupts]: “Even now?”

Ellman: “…sees antisemitism as something on the Right. I think he’s had to acknowledge it but he finds it very difficult to do it. And even now the Labour party only takes action when there is public exposure of what is going on and when very brave whistle-blowers come out and talk about what they themselves have experienced.”

Husain’s suggestion that the Labour party’s handling of antisemitism within its own ranks is “in a different place” is of course unfounded – as the party’s own recently released annual report (which does not include the word antisemitism) indicates.

Those who have been following the BBC’s reporting ever since the issue of antisemitism in the Labour party became prominent will be aware that (with a few exceptions) it has generally failed to provide the British public with coverage that provides them with the information necessary for full understanding of the issue and these two programmes aimed at domestic British audiences are no exception.  

Related Articles:

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Reviewing BBC R4’s ‘World at One’ background on the Labour Party story

BBC One’s ‘Panorama’ on Labour antisemitism raises another issue

 

 

 

BBC Complaints makes it up as it goes along

Back in August listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard a report from Yolande Knell on the topic of property transactions carried out by the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem.

Inaccurate and partial BBC Radio 4 report from Jerusalem’s Old City

In his introduction to the item presenter Justin Webb told audiences that: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

“The development’s taking place amid a recent increase in settlement building in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank…”

We noted here at the time that:

“Webb provided no evidence to support that misleading claim of “a recent increase in settlement building”. Even if his intention was to comment on construction within existing communities rather than to assert that an increased number ‘settlements’ had been recently built, the basis for that claim is unclear because the available statistics run only until the end of March 2019 and they show a decrease in construction completes in Judea & Samaria.

Both Justin Webb and subsequently Yolande Knell told BBC audiences that the story is about “the sale” of properties owned by the Greek Orthodox Church. That is not the case: the story is actually about 99-year leases for three properties (rather than two as claimed by Webb).”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning those issues on August 28th. On September 5th we were informed by BBC Complaints that “it may take a little longer before we can reply”. On September 24th we received a message informing us that “we’ve not been able to reply to your complaint within the time period we aim for”.

On October 2nd we received the following response from BBC Complaints:

“Thank you for contacting us regarding the Today programme, broadcast on Thursday 22nd August.

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

We have spoken with the Today programme team about your concerns. In the intro to Yolande’s report we said, “Church leaders and Palestinians in Jerusalem are calling for international pressure on Israel to stop Jewish settlers from taking over two historic properties at the main entrance to the city’s old Christian quarter. The Greek Orthodox Church has filed a new lawsuit trying to overturn a Supreme Court ruling on the sale of their hotels saying it was clear proof of corruption. The developments are taking place amid an increase in settler building in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as Yolande now reports.”

While it is correct that the disputed sale of the Imperial Hotel happened around 15 years ago, we consider it was made clear both in the report and in the intro that this report was specifically focussing on the current lawsuit. Yolande also made it clear within her report that Walid Dajani has been renting the lease on the hotel, rather than being the owner of this building.

On your point about the size of the settler population, it is an established fact that number has been increasing over the past decade. The phrasing used is perfectly acceptable in a short intro, where not every detail can be explained.

We hope this has clarified the issues being raised within this report. We don’t consider that this report contained any inaccuracies on these points.”

BBC Watch then submitted a second (Stage 1b) complaint pointing out that although Knell did indeed state that Dajani had been renting the lease on the hotel, in contrast to that one statement, listeners heard three references to the “sale of the hotels”, “bought the building” and “sale of the property” which are inaccurate and misleading.

We also pointed out that although it was claimed in the reply that Justin Webb referred to “an increase in settler building” he did not – he in fact used the words “a recent increase in settlement building” – and we noted that:

“There is a difference between settlers (people) and settlements (places). While the number of people the BBC brands “settlers” may have “been increasing over the past decade” the number of communities of the type the BBC labels “settlements” has not. Webb referred to “settlement building” which reasonable members of the audience would take to mean the building of settlements rather than the number of people living in such communities. Listeners would therefore understand – erroneously – that the number of communities had increased recently and would therefore be misled.”

On October 15th we received a reply which BBC Complaints took it upon itself to declare a Stage 1a response, thereby making up the rules as it goes along.

“Thank you for taking the time to contact us again. We are sorry to learn that you were not satisfied with our earlier response.

I’m sorry you had to come back to us and I appreciate why. We always aim to address the specific points raised by our audience and regret any cases where we’ve failed to do this. Your [sic] previous reply didn’t tackle the exact issue you raised and we’d like to offer you a new response here. The following should now be considered your first reply.”

BBC Complaints then admitted that it had misrepresented Webb’s words in the previous reply.

“We have spoken further with the Today programme about your concerns. They would like to respond with the following:

“We have listened again to the broadcast and you are right to say that the introduction spoke of “a recent increase in settlement building in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank” not “an increase in settler building.” We’re sorry for the misquotation in our reply.

You suggest there is a difference “between settlers (people) and settlements (places)” but in this case we think this is a distinction without a difference.

Settlements invariably expand on their existing sites, and last month, for example, the AP news agency reported that in the first two years of Trump’s presidency, authorities had approved 1,861 housing units in East Jerusalem settlements, a 60% increase from the 1,162 approved in the previous two years. The figures, obtained by ‘Peace Now’, showed that 1,081 permits for settler housing were issued in 2017 alone, the highest annual number since 2000.

More generally, the Israeli government has approved approximately 6,100 settlement housing units this year, according to the UN. By comparison, it approved 5,600 housing units in all of 2018.
https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24881&LangID=E
 
Rising Violence, Settlement-Expansion Continue to Spark Israeli-Palestinian Tensions as Talks Remain Stalled, Top Official Tells Security Council
https://www.un.org/press/en/2019/sc13930.doc.htm

As we see the BBC not only cites the notoriously biased UN Human Rights Council and its highly controversial ‘special rapporteur’ but also the partisan political NGO ‘Peace Now.

We also see that the BBC cites third party reports of on-paper-only building permits as ‘proof’ of an increase in building, rather than actual construction completes. As we have noted here in the past, that long existent practice denies audiences of accurate information essential for proper understanding of the topic.

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part one

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part two

Data published by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics last month concerning construction in Area C of Judea & Samaria clarifies that the BBC’s claim of “a recent increase in settlement building in…the West Bank” – even if one takes that to mean construction in existing communities – is questionable.

Notably the second response received from BBC Complaints did not address the issue of audiences being misled by Webb’s claim of “a recent increase in settlement building in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank”. One would of course expect the BBC (of all media outlets) to have sufficient command of the English language to prevent confusion between three different topics: the size of the ‘settler’ population, the rate of housing construction in existing communities and the number of new ‘settlements’ established.

The BBC Complaints response continues:

“Let me now turn to your previous points about the report itself.
 
It was clear from the report that Mr Dajani’s family were not the owners of the hotel but had been renting the building for decades – it stated that “his father started renting this hotel in 1948 but now Jewish settlers have bought the building” – and that it was in this respect that they would be affected by the sale.  It was also made clear that they had landlords, the Greek Orthodox Church.  Again, we think it is a distinction without a difference to suggest we should have emphasised more than we did that the sale of a lease was involved. The practical impact of the sale of a long-term lease is the same as that of a freehold. In terms of the date of the original, disputed, transaction in 2004, our report clearly focused on the current lawsuit to try to overturn the recent Supreme Court ruling upholding the legality of the sale, as the introduction made clear.”

The response then repeats the inaccurate claim of sale of properties:

“You are right to suggest that the sale of Greek Orthodox-owned properties to settlers involved three properties.  But our introduction in fact said “Church leaders and Palestinians in Jerusalem are calling for international pressure on Israel to stop Jewish settlers from taking over two historic properties at the main entrance to the city’s old Christian quarter.” This was correct.  The two, former regal, properties are the New Imperial Hotel and the Petra Hotel, which are both in the Jaffa Gate plaza.
 
There was, as you imply, a third property involved in the lawsuit, a house in the Muslim Quarter, which was bought for $55,000 in 2004 (as opposed to $1.75 million for the two hotel leases).

We do not believe this makes a material difference to the story, and as you know the report clearly focused on the New Imperial Hotel.  The battle is over the two hotels at the entrance to the Old City, and the symbolism of their being occupied by settlers.”

In other words it is clear that the BBC is far more concerned that audiences should understand the politicised “symbolism” of this story than it is with giving them an accurate account of events – or running an efficient and professional complaints system which responds on time and without trying to fob off complainants by misquoting its own content and relying on irrelevant data.

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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.

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Revisiting a BBC Radio 4 Christmas report from the Gaza Strip

Readers may recall that last year’s BBC Christmas programming included a report by Mishal Husain which was aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on Christmas Eve.

“This time last week we were reporting from Gaza and for its small Christian community this of course is the time of year when many dream of getting to Bethlehem which isn’t, after all, that far away to celebrate Christmas. However, given the blockade maintained by Israel – it says of course that’s for security reasons – travelling to the West Bank requires special permission which many do not get. Mishal Husain went to meet Palestinian Christians at one church in Gaza City.”

As was noted here at the time, Husain was conspicuously silent on the topic of how many Christians actually currently live in the Gaza Strip and her report was obviously intended to promote the politically motivated narrative that Gaza’s Christian population lives happily under Hamas rule, with its only tribulations caused by Israel.

Last week Israel’s Channel 12 aired an interview (in Hebrew and Arabic) by Arab affairs correspondent Ohad Hemo with a Christian who escaped the Gaza Strip four months ago.

“Since Hamas came to power in the Gaza Strip the Christians living there have become scapegoats and the targets of that organisation as well as Salafist extremists. Due to their difficult situation most have fled and from a community of 4,200 people, now only a few hundred remain. Kamal Tarazi was there until recently. Four months ago he managed to escape: “Hamas people took over my home and turned it into a command post”, he recounts. […]

‘They put me in a number of prisons and Hamas’ prison is all just beatings and psychological torture’ he recalls. According to him the harming of the Christians in Gaza has become routine and does not stop even during times of conflict.  […]

‘They harass and harm the Christian public and Christian institutions, churches and charities’.”

The calibre of Mishal Husain’s reporting on the topic of challenges faced by the Christian community in the Gaza Strip is again all too apparent. 

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A BBC R4 ‘Today’ Israeli election interview takes an interesting turn

The September 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included six different items (three in news bulletins) relating to the previous day’s election in Israel. In the last of those items (from 2:35:17 here) presenter Mishal Husain spoke with the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen before going on (from 2:37:59) to interview Likud MK Sharren Haskel. However things took an interesting turn when the Israeli member of parliament raised the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s payments to terrorists.

In one of her later questions (from 2:40:36), Husain made the false claim that the Israeli prime minister said he “wanted to annex the West Bank”. Netanyahu actually spoke about applying Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Rift Valley and Israeli communities rather than to the entire area previously illegally occupied by Jordan.

Husain: “Now over the course of this election campaign Mr Netanyahu said that he wanted to annex the West Bank. Would that prevent an alliance – a coalition government – with Blue & White?”

Haskel: “I don’t think that’s what’s going to prevent it because even Blue & White have spoken about the Jordan Valley and the north of the Dead Sea, which was the declaration of Prime Minister Netanyahu. There is a consensus among most Israeli[s] about these area[s] because it is a very important security and defence strip for the State of Israel and it is also a very historical area that goes back thousands of years…”

Husain [interrupts]: “And occupied territory under international law.”

Unsurprisingly, Husain did not bother to clarify which country’s sovereign territory she thinks that area was before it was ‘occupied’.

Haskel: “Ahm look, it’s a disputed territory and obviously we disagree on some of this area but we can agree definitely that the Palestinian leadership has been the refusal [refused] negotiation, has been the refusal [refused] to create stability and peace in the area. Instead of investing most of their funds into education, into infrastructure, into the people where there’s about 50% almost of unemployment, they’re pocketing the money, they are investing it in terrorists who are sitting in prison. It means that they give salaries to people who are [have] actually murdered innocent civilians…”

Husain [interrupts]: “They’re not…they’re not on the programme right now to answer those accusations.”

Haskel: “No I know. Well you know it’s all fact. It’s all been written before.”

Husain [talking over her interviewee]: “Sharren Haskel. Sharren Haskel of the Likud party – thank you.”

Husain’s abrupt termination of that interview on the grounds that no representative of the Palestinian Authority was there to “answer those accusations” is of course particularly noteworthy given that just three months ago she was perfectly happy to remain silent while the PLO’s Saeb Erekat used the ‘Today’ programme platform to voice a series of bizarre and baseless accusations concerning Israeli ‘apartheid’ with no Israeli representative given the right of reply.

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BBC reporter who “breached the requirements of due impartiality” back in Israel

The September 2nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an item relating to events from the previous day which was introduced by presenter Martha Kearney (from 38:20 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Kearney: “There’ve been clashes between Israel and the militant group Hizballah along the Lebanese border. Let’s talk now to Barbara Plett Usher, our correspondent in Jerusalem. And at the outset, Barbara, just explain to us why this is…ahm…such an important area. There has been actually war – hasn’t there? – between Israel and Hizballah…eh…around southern…southern Lebanon.”

As readers may know, while posted in Israel in 2004 Barbara Plett Usher produced a report which is still available online about Yasser Arafat that was described in a Telegraph editorial thus:

“Many listeners to the BBC were rightly outraged last week by the broadcast from its Middle East correspondent, Barbara Plett, in which she cloyingly described how she wept as Yasser Arafat was airlifted from Ramallah for medical treatment.

She said: “When the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose above his ruined compound, I started to cry . . . without warning.” Almost as a footnote, she later admitted that an “ambivalence towards violence” was one of his failings. […]

Ms Plett’s flood of feeling is just the most overt and recent manifestation of a pro-Palestinian bias endemic within the BBC. As a publicly-funded organisation, it should remember that it is not paid to take sides. As things stand, however, we might conclude that Mr Arafat’s culpable “ambivalence towards violence” is echoed by our national broadcaster.”

The BBC received a large volume of complaints concerning that item and in 2005 the BBC governors ruled that Plett Usher’s report “breached the requirements of due impartiality”.

That apparently has not deterred the BBC from sending Barbara Plett Usher – who has been reporting from the US in recent years – back to Israel.

Radio 4 listeners heard the following:

Plett Usher: “It is an important area because it’s the front line for conflict between Israel and Hizballah but the thing that’s interesting is that there hasn’t been much conflict between them for the past thirteen years. They fought a major war in 2006 but there’s been a sort of uneasy ceasefire between them since, so this flare-up is the first kind of clash we’ve seen like this in years.”

That of course is inaccurate. Incidents that have taken place along the Israel-Lebanon border since the end of the 2006 conflict include the planting of explosive devices in February 2007, the detonation of two explosive devices in March 2014, the detonation of explosive devices and the injury of two IDF soldiers in October 2014, the killing of two IDF soldiers and wounding of seven others in an attack using anti-tank missiles in January 2015 and the detonation of an explosive device in January 2016. In December 2018 the IDF commenced Operation Northern Shield to locate and destroy cross-border tunnels dug by Hizballah which were definitely not part of any “sort of uneasy ceasefire”.

Kearney: “And what’s been happening?”

Plett Usher: “So the Hizballah [sic] fired a number of anti-tank missiles at Israeli military positions and they received quite a large incoming return fire as a result. They claim to have killed a number of people although the Israelis said that wasn’t the case. Now the point here is that the Israelis had been expecting some kind of confrontation because there’s been tensions rising over the past week. A number of drone strikes in Lebanon and Syria attributed to Israel has meant that Hizballah has said it would retaliate.”

The August 25th strikes in Syria – which were not “attributed” because Israel immediately claimed them – were not carried out using drones as claimed by Plett Usher but did target IRGC drones intended for use in an attack against Israel. Plett Usher failed to inform listeners of the relevant fact that that two Hizballah operatives were killed in that strike before continuing:

Plett Usher: “In particular there was a drone strike in Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, which Hizballah felt that’s its stronghold and it needed to respond. Now the Israelis did not confirm they carried out that strike but they did say that they were trying to prevent the…eh…the development of long-range precision missiles which is something they’re very concerned about. They believe Iran is helping Hizballah do that. So that was what was building ahead of time and then you had this flare-up.”

Israel does not “believe” that Iran is helping Hizballah to develop precision-guided missiles – it has solid evidence some of which was made publicly available four days before Plett Usher made this report, meaning that there was no justification for her use of the term “believe”.

As we see Barbara Plett-Usher produced a report which, despite being relatively short, was replete with basic inaccuracies and failed to provide Radio 4 listeners with the wider context of UN SC resolution 1701 and its relevant call for all armed militias to be removed from southern Lebanon.

What Barbara Plett-Usher is doing in Jerusalem and how long she is scheduled to be there is unclear. What is already apparent is that BBC audiences are not getting accurate reporting which will “build people’s understanding”.

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Inaccurate and partial BBC Radio 4 report from Jerusalem’s Old City

Over the past two years listeners to BBC Radio 4 religious programming have heard a couple of inaccurate and misleading reports on the topic of property transactions carried out by the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem.

BBC Radio 4, ‘religious freedom’ and a half-told story

BBC R4 ‘Sunday’ adds more confusion to Jerusalem church story

Listeners to the August 22nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard another item in that genre which was introduced by presenter Justin Webb (from 43:46 here) as follows:

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

Webb: “Church leaders and Palestinians in Jerusalem are calling for international pressure on Israel to stop Jewish settlers taking over two historic properties at the main entrance to the Old City’s Christian Quarter. The Greek Orthodox Church has filed a new lawsuit to try to overturn a Supreme Court ruling on the sale of the hotels, saying it was clear proof of corruption. The development’s taking place amid a recent increase in settlement building in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank as Yolande Knell reports.”

Webb provided no evidence to support that misleading claim of “a recent increase in settlement building”. Even if his intention was to comment on construction within existing communities rather than to assert that an increased number ‘settlements’ had been recently built, the basis for that claim is unclear because the available statistics run only until the end of March 2019 and they show a decrease in construction completes in Judea & Samaria.

Both Justin Webb and subsequently Yolande Knell told BBC audiences that the story is about “the sale” of properties owned by the Greek Orthodox Church. That is not the case: the story is actually about 99-year leases for three properties (rather than two as claimed by Webb).

Knell’s report commenced as follows:

Knell: “There’s a rush of tourists entering Jerusalem’s walled Old City through Jaffa Gate. They’re here to visit the sacred sites of three faiths: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Over the centuries this place has been the crucible of conflict. Today the struggle is between Israelis and Palestinians and I’m looking up at the impressive façade of a nineteenth century landmark which is now on the front line of that. Wow! So this is the Imperial Hotel.”

Knell then introduced her report’s main protagonist – again inaccurately claiming that “the building” has been “bought”.

Knell: “Abu Walid Dajani’s family has lived in Jerusalem for generations. His father started renting this hotel in 1948. But now Jewish settlers have bought the building and he could soon be thrown out.”

The transaction did not occur “now” as claimed by Knell but a decade and a half ago in 2004.

Dajani: “The only thing I wish that God would give me the help and for my children to continue the battle of my life. We’ve been here for the last 600 years and inshallah we will continue.”

Knell then once again inaccurately referred to “the sale of the property” and told audiences of “a corrupt official” despite the fact that in 2017 the Jerusalem District Court ruled that “the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate was unable to establish that the deals, made in 2004 […] were fraudulent or involved bribery” and in June 2019 the Supreme Court upheld that ruling.

Knell: “During a long court battle the landlords – the Greek Orthodox Church – argued the sale of the property for just over a million dollars was carried out by a corrupt official. But Israel’s Supreme Court found it was legal. Mr Dajani says the buyers were driven by ideology.”

Dajani: “Distorted history. Where this is the land that God give. Who gave you? God was never a real estate man. All right; you can buy but you can do a deal in an honest way.”

Knell next claimed that Jerusalem’s Old City is “East Jerusalem”.

Knell: “Outside the hotel local church leaders pray for peace. They’ve appealed to the Vatican, to Moscow and Washington to intervene to stop a Jewish take-over of Christian properties in the Old City. For Palestinians this is also about protecting their presence in East Jerusalem and the idea of creating the capital of their hoped-for future state here.”

Listeners then heard an unidentified man claim that:

Man: “Every small land here in Jerusalem for Palestinians is very important but here is very like main area for tourists to come in so they see the flag, they see like returns to Israeli but it’s not – it’s Palestinian.”

Failing to clarify to listeners that there has never been a Palestinian state – let alone one which had sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem – Knell went on:

Knell: “But come down to the Western Wall – this crowded spot which is the holiest place where Jews can pray – and Israelis have a very different perspective. They see a united Jerusalem as their eternal capital.”

Listeners then heard two vox pop interviews with people who barely speak English replying to Knell’s question “you wouldn’t give up part of Jerusalem for peace with the Palestinians?”.

The Old City is of course not just any old “part of Jerusalem” but Knell made no effort at all to inform listeners of the fact that it is a location where Jews lived for centuries until they were ethnically cleansed by Jordan for a period lasting nineteen years.

Moreover, Knell then went on to promote a politically motivated narrative long embraced by the BBC: the notion that any and all Jews living in the Old City are ‘settlers’ and their homes ‘illegal settlements’.

Knell: [shouting] “A Palestinian woman screams after she’s evicted from her Old City home earlier this year so Jewish students can move in. Settlements are seen as illegal by most countries but Israel disagrees and in East Jerusalem one group – Ateret Cohanim – is behind a lot of the house purchases. Its director Daniel Luria recently told me he hopes to see many more Jews living here.”

Following that short and obviously carefully edited interview, Knell closed her report.

Knell: “Back at the Imperial Hotel an Israeli court worker serves Abu Walid Dajani with a new lawsuit, freezing his assets. The pressure on him from the settlers is mounting. At the heart of this deeply contested holy city, real estate has much more than just a financial value. It has an emotional and political one too.”

Not only did this report repeatedly promote inaccurate information concerning the properties which are ostensibly its subject matter but Yolande Knell has clearly exclusively embraced the Greek Orthodox Church’s narrative.

More gravely, Knell unquestioningly promoted the partisan political narrative she long since adopted with her framing of Old City houses inhabited by Jewish Israelis as ‘illegal settlements’, the inhabitants as ‘settlers’ and her uncritical amplification of the claim that the location is “Palestinian”.

Clearly this report does not meet the standards of either accuracy or impartiality laid down in the BBC’s editorial guidelines.  

Related Articles:

BBC tells audiences location of centuries-old Jewish habitation is an ‘illegal settlement’

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BBC reporting on Gush Etzion terror attack

On the morning of August 8th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel hunts killer of off-duty soldier in West Bank” on its ‘Middle East’ page. The report has since undergone various amendments but the headline and opening paragraph describing Dvir Sorek as an “off-duty soldier” even though he had yet to undergo any military training remain unchanged.

Unsurprisingly, the only use of the word ‘terrorist’ throughout the report came in direct quotes from the Israeli prime minister and an IDF spokesman.

One hundred and five of the report’s 414 words were given over to uncritical amplification of statements from a terrorist organisation.

“There has been no claim of responsibility for the killing, though a spokesman for Hamas, the Palestinian militant group which rules the Gaza Strip, justified the attack.

“The Etzion [Jewish settlement bloc] Operation was as much as a response to the crimes of Occupation, the latest of which was the one committed at Wadi Hummus; it is also a response to the continued occupation of the Palestinian territory,” Hazem Qasim said.

He was referring to the recent demolition by Israel of Palestinian homes in the area of Wadi Hummus which Israel said were built illegally too close to the separation barrier in the West Bank.”

Towards the end of the report readers were told that:

“Cpl Sorek’s killing has echoes of the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the same area of the West Bank in 2014.

The murders of Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaer, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, triggered a massive search in the West Bank, and eventually escalated into a conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

The killers of the teenagers came from Hamas.”

As has been noted here on numerous other occasions in the past five years when the BBC has presented a similarly misleading portrayal of the background to Operation Protective Edge:

“…the BBC has completely airbrushed from audience view the hundreds of missiles launched at civilian targets in Israel between the date of the kidnappings – June 12th – and the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th. It was of course that surge in missile fire which was the reason for Israel’s military action, with the later discovery of dozens of cross-border tunnels prompting the subsequent ground operation. The military operation could have been avoided had Hamas elected to take advantage of the ample opportunities it was given to stop the missile fire before July 8th, but the terrorist organisation chose not to do so – for reasons not by any means exclusively connected to Israel.”

A filmed report embedded into that article and also posted separately on the BBC News website described the victim as a soldier, without the term “off-duty”. While that portrayal is technically correct, it is also irrelevant seeing as the attacker would not have been aware of the fact that he had recently been recruited.

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on the morning of August 8th were told in a news bulletin (from 2:07:04 here) that:

“An Israeli soldier has been found stabbed to death near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank. The 18-year-old is thought to have been off-duty at the time of the attack near Hebron. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said he was killed by a Palestinian.”

Once again the victim was described as a soldier even though the IDF spokesman had clarified that:

“The slain youth is a resident of Binyamin [in Samaria] and a yeshivah student in Migdal Oz. He had begun his recruitment into the IDF but had not yet served. He was still in the studying stage at the yeshivah.”

As for the BBC’s claim that the Israeli prime minister had, by 10 a.m. local time on August 8th, said that the victim was “killed by a Palestinian” – we have been unable to find anything on the prime minister’s social media accounts or in reports by the local media such as Ha’aretz, Ynet, the Jerusalem Post or the Times of Israel to support that BBC claim.  

Related Articles:

BBC News report omits significant information

 

 

Gaza propaganda on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’

h/t FB

The August 8th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 44:25 here) concerning a film about the Gaza Strip. Presenter John Humprys began with some unsurprising framing.

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

Humphrys: “Gaza is by any standards a pretty bleak place to live. Now a documentary called ‘Gaza’, which had its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is about to be released in this country. It’s been called a portrait of Palestinian life in which a series of people talk about how they live amid restrictions and lack of any opportunity. Mishal has spoken to Garry Keane – co-director of the film – and Fadi Hussam Hannona the production manager in Gaza. She asked Garry Keane why he made the film.”

“Mishal” is of course the programme’s own Mishal Husain who has herself produced no small amount of one-sided reporting from or about the Gaza Strip in the past.

Keane: “The film was born out of a conversation I had back in 2012 with the documentary photographer Andrew McConnell. And I had always wanted to meet someone who had access to the Strip, who had an awareness of working on the ground there. And most importantly to meet someone who had shared, you know, shared my sensibilities about the situation there. So when we both realised that we had a passion for the plight of what we consider the trapped and tortured people of Gaza, we decided to combine our skills – as I was a documentary maker, he was a photographer – and join together to make a film about…from the point of view of the ordinary citizens of the Strip. So that conversation happened in 2012 and it took us until 2018 to finish.”

Following a clip from the film Husain introduced its production manager.

Husain: “Fadi Hannona – you were the production manager in Gaza. There are a series of individuals who are seen in the film. A couple of them are teenagers. How did you decide on those people and what was the process of filming on the ground in a place like Gaza like for you?”

Hannona: “Actually I didn’t decide. I understood what the directors wanted. The research took long time thinking about how we can present these characters to the audience in the right, most natural, real way. And look, the media around the world deal with Gaza only as a breaking news so we decide to do something completely different and we did. We have Gaza film now.”

Husain failed to challenge that inaccurate claim and listeners heard another clip from the film before her interviewee continued:

Hannona: “Gaza has been reduced to an image of violence and destruction on the news. OK yes; there’s conflicts…conflict in Gaza but people here just want to live a normal life and people want a chance. So we tried through our film to show the other side of Gaza: the side where the ordinary people are suffering every day.”

Husain: “Have the people featured in it – or indeed anyone in Gaza – got to see it?”

Hannona’s reply did not inform listeners that there is “no cinema in Gaza” any longer because it is ruled by an extremist Islamist terror organisation.

Hannona: “Actually no because there’s no cinema in Gaza and after what happened in Sundance I was very upset back then and I’m still very sad and angry about it. Not only did we miss the festival and the chance to present the film but it’s just another reminder of how wrong it is that we can’t travel. It’s, you know, it’s unjust.”

Husain: “You mean because you didn’t manage to get out of Gaza to go to the Sundance Festival yourself?”

Hannona: “Yeah I lost…yeah I lost [unintelligible] to bring me at Sundance. They close the border one day before I should leave Gaza.”

Listeners were not told to which of Gaza’s borders Hannona was referring or who “they” are. The Sundance Festival took place in the US between January 24th and February 3rd 2019. Egypt had closed its border crossing with the Gaza Strip earlier that month due to Hamas’ take-over of the Rafah Crossing after Palestinian Authority staff had been withdrawn. According to the UN that closure lasted until January 28th. On January 22nd:

“…shots were fired at Israeli troops stationed along the security fence across from the northern Strip. In response, an IDF tank destroyed a nearby observation post belonging to the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group.

On Tuesday afternoon, during a small riot next to the border, another sniper opened fire at a group of soldiers positioned along the border, hitting a Paratroopers Brigade company commander in his helmet, causing light injuries.”

Whether or not that was the reason for a closure of the Erez Crossing is unclear but notably BBC audiences heard nothing about the responsibility of Palestinians for their travel difficulties.

Listeners heard another clip from the film before Husain went on:

Husain: “Garry Keane; do you think it is a fair portrait of Gaza? And I ask that because you talked about ‘trapped and tortured people’. The Hollywood Reporter felt that you airbrushed Hamas and its responsibility out of the story.”

The Hollywood Reporter review of the film includes the following:

“The press notes for Gaza say Hamas is one of the villains of the story, but that’s a ludicrous statement. Hamas may be one of the villains of the actual historical record, but it’s a non-factor in the documentary. Occasionally we pass by a military-affiliated figure with a rocket launcher or a machine gun, but to watch Gaza you’d think such weaponry was only used to be fired in the air when the Israelis free unjustly imprisoned Palestinians.”

Keane: “Ahm…we have been accused on occasion – on very few, you know, very limited occasions – of making a propaganda film for Hamas but anyone who claims that we feel has an agenda to serve. We show Hamas armed military wing on the streets conducting large rallies with enormous rockets on display. A character in the film says that Palestinian problems would be solved if Hamas weren’t there. We don’t serve the views of Hamas or any of their supporters. Our film is all about highlighting the effects of an unjust blockade on the ordinary people of Gaza. You know, a blockade that even the UN constitutes as collective punishment. So I think it’s ridiculous to say that, you know, that just because we disapprove of the actions of the Israeli government and want to highlight that, that we’re accused of racism or…this film is not about race or religion or about propaganda. It’s about human rights violations being perpetrated on two million citizens of the Gaza Strip. You know this is a film about promoting understanding.”

With nothing at all to say about the human rights of the Israeli civilians living for years under the shadow of Hamas terrorism, Husain closed the item there.  

Husain: “Garry Keane and Fadi Hussam Hannona, thank you both.”

Once again BBC Radio 4 has presented a one-sided item which does not even pretend to fully inform audiences but promotes plenty of buzz words and slogans which conform to the corporation’s standard politicised messaging on the Gaza Strip.