BBC WS radio’s Newshour invents an Israeli ‘ban’

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on September 2nd heard presenter James Coomarasamy introduce an item (from 18:56 here) as follows:

Coomarasamy: “When a classical music radio station plays the music of Richard Wagner it’s not usually a problem – unless, that is, the radio station is in Israel where Wagner’s music is banned from broadcast or being played in public because of the composer’s links to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. On Friday night a programme on Israel public radio broke that boycott, playing part of Wagner’s Goetterdaemmerung opera and the complaints inevitably flooded in. Israel public radio has now apologised and said that it won’t happen again.” [emphasis added]

That highlighted claim from Coomarasamy is inaccurate: there is no ‘ban’ on playing Wagner’s music in public in Israel.

In 1938 the Palestinian Symphonic Orchestra (which later became the Israel Philharmonic) decided to exclude Wagner’s works from its repertoire following the Kristallnacht pogroms. That evolved into a long-standing and broad consensus that public performances of the composer’s music would offend many members of the public – especially Holocaust survivors – and so radio stations and orchestras generally refrain from playing Wagner’s works.

In the rest of the programme’s coverage of that story listeners heard one perspective: that of the founder (in 2010) of a group called the ‘Israel Wagner Society’.

The same Jonathan Livny was quoted in a BBC News website report on the same story which appeared on September 3rd under the headline “Israel public radio apologises for playing Richard Wagner music“. That article, however, managed to present the story to audiences accurately:

“In its apology, the broadcaster said the editor had erred in his “artistic choice” and Wagner would not be played.

The Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation added that it recognised the pain such a broadcast would cause among Holocaust survivors. […]

Wagner’s music is not banned in Israel but is not played due to widespread public opposition.”

Oddly, the same minor domestic Israeli story was also featured (from 2:06:33 here) in a news bulletin aired in the September 3rd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme. In contrast to the BBC World Service, reporter Steve Jackson managed to accurately describe a “long-standing convention that his [Wagner’s] music is not played in Israel”.

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Superficial BBC reporting from Gaza recycles jaded narratives

h/t GB

Earlier this month we noted that:

“In addition to holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in 2014 – Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul – the Hamas terror group is also keeping prisoner at least two Israeli civilians – Avera Mengistu and Hisham al Sayed – who have not been the topic of any BBC reporting in the three years that their imprisonment has been publicly known.”

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on the morning of August 27th would therefore have been unlikely to understand what Yolande Knell was talking about when she briefly referred to “two Israelis jailed in Gaza or two soldiers’ remains”.

Presenter Justin Webb introduced that item (from 02:42:00 here) with a reference to another story about which BBC audiences had previously heard nothing: the partial closure last week of the Erez Crossing in response to Palestinian violence the previous Friday.

As is now standard in BBC reporting, Webb euphemistically described violent rioting that includes shootings, IED and grenade attacks and border infiltrations as “protests” and listeners were not told that a significant proportion of those killed during that violence were linked to terror factions.

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

Webb: “Israel is going to reopen the Eretz [sic] border crossing with the Gaza Strip today. The defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that it’s going to happen. It’s happening a week after it was closed, he said, because of clashes. And more than 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the end of March when protests began along the border with Israel. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper. And since last month there’ve been three further violent flare-ups. The UN is warning that the Palestinian territory is close to collapse. There are severe water and power shortages. There is a broken economy. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been looking at what can be done to fix Gaza.”

Obviously any serious examination of that question would have to include clarification of the way in which the actions of the Hamas terror group have led to a deterioration in conditions within the Gaza Strip such as its use of water piping to make missiles, its hijacking of cement intended for construction and its diversion of funds to the terrorism which forces neighbouring countries to employ counter-terrorism strategies such as restrictions on the import of dual-use goods. Likewise, that topic cannot be seriously addressed without explanation of the actions of the Palestinian Authority which have included cutting electricity supplies, medical supplies and salaries to Gaza Strip residents.

Yolande Knell, however, chose to present a picture devoid of that context.

Knell: “These children sound like they’re having fun but this is a daily task they have to do: collecting water from a stand pipe at the edge of the Khan Younis refugee camp. They get very little running water at home. What they do get isn’t drinkable. There’s no electricity. Their mother explains another problem. The power here comes on for just 3 or 4 hours a day. Umm Mustafa has only ever been able to leave Gaza once to take her sick son to a hospital. But she knows life doesn’t have to be this way.”

Voiceover woman: “I’ve seen the people outside. They don’t have a crisis like the one we live. I’ve seen how people have running water in their houses and it’s clear and clean. Mothers outside don’t organise their daily routines around when the electricity comes on. Our life is hostage to the electricity.”

The “people outside” did not elect a violent terrorist organisation to power but Yolande Knell’s account does not dwell on the connection between that choice and the current situation in the Gaza Strip.

Knell: “Over a decade ago Hamas took full control of Gaza, ousting Palestinian Authority security forces in bloody fighting a year after it had won elections. Israel and Egypt then tightened a blockade of the territory. Three armed conflicts between Hamas and Israel followed. This year saw the deadly Gaza border protests. Palestinian economist Omar Shaban says people’s desperation played a big role.”

Knell did not bother to inform listeners that in addition to being an economist, Omar Shaban is a policy advisor for Al Shabaka. Predictably for a person who three months ago wrote an article claiming “Gazans are protesting their economy, not Israel’s existence” about the pre-planned agitprop titled ‘The Great Return March’ that openly promotes the elimination of Israel by means of the so-called ‘right of return’, Shaban managed to eliminate the word ‘return’ from his account but did use the inaccurate Hamas-favoured terminology “siege” with no challenge from Knell.

Shaban: “The economy was a key decisive element on the Great March. Unemployment, the siege, the lack of business, Palestinian Authority measures against Gaza that started 2 years ago. To fix Gaza it’s about bringing hope, bringing more jobs to the people, lifting the siege, allowing export from Gaza to get out.”

Neither Shaban nor Knell bothered to ask why – if, as Shaban claims, the violence along the border was driven by the state of “the economy” – Gazans have not been demonstrating against the Hamas regime which is responsible for their “desperation”.

Knell: “Ideas have been suggested to open up Gaza. From a seaport in Cyprus with Israeli security checks to this:

Recording: The artificial island initiative is aimed at providing an answer to a reality that is bad for the Palestinians and not good for Israel.

Israeli security cabinet minister Israel Katz proposes a new multi-million dollar island off the Gaza coast with a port and power and desalination plants.”

Katz: “You solve the two main problems. The first problem is the security of Israel – not endangering the security of Israel – and the other thing; to improve the humanitarian conditions of the people in Gaza. Private companies that are not willing now to act in Gaza, to build things, will do it on the island.”

Knell: “But in the past month tensions between Israel and Hamas have flared up three times with Palestinian militants firing rockets and Israeli airstrikes. The intervention of Egypt and the UN calmed the situation. So what are the chances now for a longer term deal? Not good says Israeli defence analyst Alex Fishman. He points to the Palestinians’ own deep political rift and Hamas’ insistence that it won’t return two Israelis jailed in Gaza or two soldiers’ remains without a release of Palestinian prisoners by Israel.”

Fishman: “Hamas is a terrorist group: nobody will talk with them directly. Therefore we need to bring Palestinian Authority to this agreement otherwise nothing will work. Secondly, the problem with the Israeli missing soldiers – it’s a matter of national pride; nobody will give up. Therefore it will be only a limited agreement.”

As noted above, in the three years that it has been public knowledge that at least two Israeli civilians are being held prisoner by Hamas, BBC audiences have not seen any coverage of that story whatsoever. Knell’s brief mention obviously did nothing to contribute to audience understanding of that issue.

Knell closed her report with a reference to a “new security barrier around the Strip” by which she presumably means the underground barrier designed to thwart the cement and cash guzzling Hamas cross-border attack tunnels which she failed to mention throughout this report.

Knell: “In Gaza the lack of power means untreated sewage is discharged off the coast. Although Israel is building a new security barrier around the Strip, it’s a reminder of how its humanitarian crisis is increasingly difficult to contain. Already waste from here is washing up on southern Israeli beaches.”

There is of course nothing remotely novel about BBC audiences being steered towards the inaccurate belief that all the economic and humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip are attributable to Israeli counter-terrorism measures while the roles of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in creating and exacerbating the crisis are downplayed or airbrushed from the story.

In this report Yolande Knell managed to combine that politically motivated narrative with yet another dumbed down portrayal of the topic of a potential truce.

Related Articles:

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Superficial BBC WS reporting on Gaza truce discussions

BBC political correspondent fails to fact-check team Corbyn ‘defence’

The August 25th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item relating to the story which had been reported in the same station’s news bulletins the previous evening: that of Jeremy Corbyn’s 2013 remarks concerning British Zionists who he said:

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

Co-presenter Justin Webb introduced that item (from 11:39 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Webb: “A statement last night from Jeremy Corbyn on those remarks about British Zionists and their failure to understand irony. Our political correspondent Tom Barton is here. What’s he saying now, Tom?”

Barton: “Well of course for months Jeremy Corbyn’s faced criticism over the way the Labour Party has handled complaints of antisemitism and one of the key issues has been about the words people use and in particular how that term – Zionist – can be used to attack the Jewish people as a whole. And now Jeremy Corbyn has had to defend his own use of that word after a speech in 2013 where he talked about British Zionists who he said may have lived in this country for a very long time, perhaps all of their lives, but – who he said – didn’t understand English irony. Now he was talking in particular about a group of pro-Israel activists who he said had berated the Palestinian representative to the UK following a speech in Westminster a little before that speech that he made in 2013. It drew criticism though from several Labour MPs including Luciana Berger who said the comments were inexcusable. Well last night Jeremy Corbyn published a statement saying that he used the term Zionists – in his words – in the accurate political sense to describe pro-Israel campaigners and not – he said – as a euphemism for Jewish people. He also though said that he is now more careful about how he uses the term Zionist because he says it has been increasingly hijacked by antisemites as code for Jews.”

Justin Webb then apparently tried to raise a relevant point which had been glaringly absent from BBC Radio 4’s previous coverage of the story.

Webb: “But when he said…when he said ‘having lived in this country for a long time, probably all their lives’, that then doesn’t sound as if he’s referring to a group that isn’t in a sense ‘other’.”

Barton: “And this is it, so Labour’s defence of that point is that he was talking in context, very particular, particularly about a group of people, pro-Israel activists who were made up of both Jewish people and non-Jewish people and he was using…”

Webb: “I see.”

Barton: “…it to refer to…ah…this particular group of activists and not – they say – to the Jewish community.”

Did Tom Barton bother to fact check that Labour “defence” before regurgitating it on air? Did he ask the Labour Party how exactly it had determined the religion/ethnicity of people it claimed attended an event in Parliament over five and a half years ago? Apparently not.

The person who recorded the PLO envoy’s speech in Parliament in January 2013 was Richard Millett. As i24 News reported:

“Millett says he does not recall “berating” the Palestinian envoy at the end of the 2013 event in Parliament, but is convinced that Corbyn was referring to his blog criticizing Hassassian’s remarks, saying he does not recall any other pro-Israel activists in the audience.” [emphasis added]

In the video of Corbyn’s 2013 speech he does not mention “a group of people” – let alone their ethnic/religious origins – but refers only to “Zionists”.

Moreover, from remarks made by Corbyn before that ‘English irony’ claim – remarks which were edited out of the video – it is obvious that he was indeed talking about Zionist British Jews rather than “this particular group of activists”.

And as Tom Barton’s Twitter feed shows, he knew that video had been edited and was later provided with the transcript of the rest of Corbyn’s speech.

Webb and Barton closed the item by discussing the potential effects of Corbyn’s statement would “make a difference” within the Labour Party itself.

As we see not only were the BBC’s domestic audiences once again not given any explanation as to why Corbyn’s remarks were regarded by many as offensive and antisemitic, but the BBC’s political correspondent quickly quashed that line of discussion with unquestioning repetition of an obviously inadequately checked statement given to him by team Corbyn.

So much for the BBC’s public purposes pledge to its funding public:

“The BBC will provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world.”

Related Articles:

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

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

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

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

BBC article on antisemitism report recycles problematic backgrounder

More promotion of the Livingstone Formulation from BBC News

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 news bulletins mislead UK audiences on Gaza rocket attacks

h/t CL

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ on August 9th included an item (from 18:09 here) concerning events in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip which had begun several hours beforehand.

The BBC’s newsreader refrained from informing listeners who carried out the missile fire mentioned in his chronologically reversed portrayal of the story. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Newsreader: “Israel has carried out a dozen airstrikes on targets in Gaza in response to the firing of around 36 missiles into Israel. One Palestinian man was killed. The Israelis said at least three people were wounded inside Israel. Yesterday two fighters from Hamas, which controls Gaza, were killed by Israeli fire. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

By the time that news bulletin went on air (02:00 Israel time), over 70 projectiles had been launched from the Gaza Strip. In other words, Radio 4 news reduced the number of attacks on Israeli civilian targets by half. Notably too, the report presented a Palestinian casualty as fact (without telling listeners that he was a Hamas operative) while presenting Israeli wounded using the “Israel says” caveat. Unnecessary qualification was also evident in Yoland Knell’s report.

Knell: “Israel’s military says that its fighter jets targeted sites across Gaza that were used by Palestinian militants to build tunnels for attacks, to make rockets and for logistics. Earlier, Israeli television broadcast pictures of a house and cars said to have been damaged when two rockets hit the town of Sderot. Several other missiles were intercepted by Israel’s aerial defence system and most landed in open areas. Hamas had warned that Israel would pay for an attack one day ago which killed two of its militants. An Israeli tank fired at a Gaza watchtower after soldiers believed gunshots had been aimed at them. Palestinian and Israeli media later reported that the gunfire had actually been part of a Hamas training exercise. The latest violence follows reports that progress had been made in talks mediated by the UN and Egypt to try to achieve a lasting ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.”

Notably, while she did use Hamas’ own terminology to describe its threats of retaliation, Yolande Knell did not clarify to BBC audiences that the terror group was attacking exclusively civilian targets.

Eight hours later, Radio 4 listeners were again given an inaccurate picture of the number of missile attacks against Israeli civilians in the station’s 8 a.m. news bulletin (from 02:06:11 here) read by Chris Aldridge during the August 9th edition of the ‘Today’ programme.  

Aldridge: “The Palestinian authorities say three people, including an 18 month-old girl, have been killed in a series of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip by Israeli warplanes. The Israeli army said it was targeting what it called ‘terror sites’ in the Palestinian territory in response to three dozen rockets fired into Israel.”

Four hours before Aldridge read that news bulletin the number of missile attacks launched against Israeli civilians since the previous evening was already over 150. In other words, the BBC concealed over 75% of the attacks that actually took place – and 100% of the Israeli civilians injured by them – from audience view. As we see, the ministry of health run by the terror group launching those missiles was inaccurately portrayed as “the Palestinian authorities”: terminology which listeners used to hearing about ‘the Palestinian Authority’ no doubt found very confusing.

Remarkably, although that news bulletin was aired after the BBC News website had amended a problematic context-free headline, Radio 4 also chose to present the story to its audiences in reverse chronology.

Related Articles:

Inaccuracy, reverse chronology and lack of context in BBC reporting on Gaza missile attacks

BBC’s sanitisation of deliberate Gaza border violence continues

 

A context-free ‘Today’ report from the BBC’s Paul Adams in Gaza

Many thanks to all those who wrote in to alert us to an item aired in the July 25th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme Today. That report by Paul Adams – currently a BBC diplomatic correspondent and formerly twice based in Jerusalem – was introduced by presenter Mishal Husain (from 0:47:15 here) with multiple inaccuracies.

Husain: “Israel has partially reopened the Kerem Shalom crossing point into the Gaza Strip allowing fuel to enter the territory for the first time in two weeks. The crossing was closed earlier this month after incendiary kites were flown across the border setting fire to agricultural land inside Israel.”

Firstly, the Kerem Shalom crossing was not “closed” – and therefore also not “reopened”. As the BBC News website reported on July 17th, restrictions were placed on the types of goods allowed through:

“No fuel will enter through Kerem Shalom until Sunday, but food and medicine deliveries will still be permitted.” [emphasis added]

The restriction on fuel and gas imports was lifted at noon on July 24th after having been in force since July 17th: in other words for seven and a half days. Husain’s claim that fuel had entered the territory “for the first time in two weeks” is hence inaccurate. Listeners were not told that the restrictions were introduced not only after “incendiary kites were flown across the border” by parties Husain refrains from identifying but also after terror factions in the Gaza Strip had launched over 200 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians two days beforehand.

Husain continued with an equally context-free portrayal of the violent rioting – pre-planned, financed and facilitated by Gaza terror factions – that has been taking place since the end of March:

Husain: “The UN says the lack of fuel has affected Gaza’s only power plant and hospitals, where hundreds of Palestinians are still being treated after being shot by Israeli soldiers during the protests of recent weeks.

Mishal Husain of course did not bother to inform listeners of the fact that Hamas has been exploiting diesel fuel imported via Egypt and intended for “Gaza’s only power plant” to boost its own coffers and for terror purposes. She went on:

Husain: “But as our diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams reports, health workers are worried about something much more long-term: the deteriorating mental condition of nearly 2 million Gazans.”

With the background to the report having thus been framed as related to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures, Adams commenced by telling a two month-old story.

Adams: “On the busy streets of Gaza a man sets fire to himself. The crowd gathers and the flames are doused. The man is bundled into a taxi. He makes it to hospital but dies two days later. What drove musical newly married Fathi Harb to take his own life? The man in the online videos dressed as a clown or singing to promote a coffee brand. His grandfather Said tries to make sense of Fathi’s death. Like everyone in Gaza he struggled to make a living but his wife Doha was about to give birth to their first child. The baby, Wattan, was born two days after Fathi died.”

Voiceover Grandfather: “No-one knows why he did it but the boy asked himself what kind of life are we living So I think of the same question. Every Palestinian asks himself the same question.”

Adams did not inform listeners that – as reported by some journalists at the time – Fathi Harb was “heard cursing the government” as he set himself on fire. Other media outlets noted that his family had been affected by the Palestinian Authority’s cutting of salaries to employees in the Gaza Strip.

In Paul Adams’ account, however, there is no room for any mention whatsoever of Hamas or the Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority.

Adams: “Suicide is a terrible sin in Islam and yet Fathi Harb chose to do it out in the street in front of dozens of people. He was clearly desperate and so it seems are more and more people here. Gaza’s boiling border has been in and out of the news since March but UN staff have been worried about Gaza’s young men for months.”

Following Adams’ promotion of that false linkage between the economic situation and the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop, listeners heard from “a UN health worker who claimed “more cases” since the beginning of the year. Adams commented that:

Adams: “It seems as though particularly educated young people are especially vulnerable to this kind of suicidal thought.”

The UN health worker gave a reply which conveniently fits in with Adams’ framing of the story, claiming that such people are “open to the world and the same time they cannot see the world.”

Adams continued:

Adams: “And it’s not just suicide. Domestic abuse is another alarming trend. At a UN clinic local women are discussing stress management. With unemployed, depressed husbands and angry, restive children Gaza’s women are under strain.”

After listeners had heard from one of those women, Adams went on, again studiously avoiding any mention of uncomfortable subjects such as Hamas’ use of water and sewage pipes to make rockets or Mahmoud Abbas’ deliberate exacerbation of the Gaza power crisis last year.

Adams: “Gaza has been crumbling for decades. War and economic isolation have taken their toll. There’s no proper drinking water. Electricity comes on for just 3 hours a day – sometimes in the middle of the night.”

Adams then introduced another interviewee:

Adams: “David Hutton runs the UN community mental health programme in Gaza.”

Hutton – who told listeners that “anybody who lives under these conditions” would “have an erosion of coping skills” – actually works for UNRWA and unsurprisingly had nothing to say about Hamas’ responsibility for what he described as “the chronic stress that people live with”. Adams went on:

Adams: “The youngest need help too. ‘Save the Children’ runs a youth centre at Beit Hanoun at the northern end of the Gaza Strip, close to the Israeli border. Encouraged by an instructor, girls in their early teen years play games, sing and forget themselves. But there are haunted faces here too, hanging back, uncertain, troubled.”

Adams did not bother to ask whether those “haunted faces” might be linked to the fact that four years ago, children living in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia were witness to the firing of 69.4% of the 3,356 missiles fired at civilian targets in Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip between July 8th and August 5th 2014.

Adams closed his report with a quote from the NGO which typically avoids mentioning the effects of Palestinian terrorists’ rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli children:

Adams: “‘Save the Children’ say 95% of Gaza’s children experience psychological distress: yet another Palestinian generation growing up with the corrosive effects of a conflict apparently without end.”

As we see, Paul Adams managed to get through his entire report without mentioning the words Hamas and terrorism even once. Obviously such blatantly context-free reporting – along with Mishal Husain’s inaccurate claims -not only contributes nothing at all to the BBC’s public purpose of helping its audiences “engage fully with issues” but actively hinders that process.

 

BBC R4 presenter portrays response to violent rioting as “attack”

The July 23rd edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today’ included an item (from 02:51:43 here) concerning an incident which had taken place the previous night. In her introduction, presenter Martha Kearney described the alleged shooting of a Palestinian youth during violent rioting that included the use of IEDs, rocks, petrol bombs and grenades as an “attack”. [emphasis in bold added]

Kearney: “Israeli soldiers have shot dead a Palestinian teenager during a raid in the West Bank. Tom Bateman is our Middle East correspondent and Tom – tell us a bit more about this attack.”

Bateman: “Well this was the Deheishe refugee camp. It’s a big refugee camp in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli military went in for a raid during the night – I mean these are things that happen frequently. They say they’re often looking for suspects or for weapons manufacturing sites.”

Readers may recall that in May the BBC failed to report the murder of an Israeli soldier during such an operation in another location. Tom Bateman did not clarify to listeners that the places he described as “occupied” – Bethlehem and the Deheishe camp – have been under Palestinian Authority control for well over two decades. He continued:

Bateman: “They went into the camp looking for two people. They say this triggered clashes The Israelis say that they came under fire with rocks and firebombs and grenades and say they responded using live fire. And in that incident a 15 year-old boy was shot in the chest and died. His name was Arkan Mezher. Following that there were some protests; residents of the camp marching to the local government hospital.”

Bateman failed to inform listeners that the incident is under investigation or that the youth was wrapped in the flag of the PFLP terror faction at his funeral.

Martha Kearney went on:

Kearney: “And this comes at a time of increased tensions throughout the region.”

Once again the BBC avoided informing its audiences that Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi was killed by a Palestinian sniper.

Bateman: “Well this is the West bank and I mean there has been, you know, increasing simmering tension on the Gaza boundary between Gaza and Israel. At the…on Friday there was yet another flare-up – really the third in a couple of months – between Hamas in Gaza and Israel. There was an Israeli soldier who was shot dead near to the fence. Israel then responded with a wave of airstrikes killing four Palestinians and I mean at the time the UN envoy to the region Nickolay Mladenov was warning that Gaza was on the brink of war. Now over the weekend there seems to have been a relative calm restored but yes; I think the context is about heightened tension.”

Bateman likewise failed to clarify that at least three of those “four Palestinians” were members of Hamas’ militia or that Palestinians subsequently launched three rockets into Israeli territory.

Kearney: “Relative calm and what about ceasefires?”

Bateman: “Well a ceasefire was announced by Hamas on the early hours of Saturday morning. There has been mediation by Egyptian intelligence, by the United Nations. I mean Israel never really comments on these ceasefires but clearly there appears to be some kind of agreement that does for the time being seem to be holding.”

Bateman of course made no effort to inform listeners that Hamas’ July 20th announcement of a ceasefire came just six days after the previous one it announced – and broke.  

Related Articles:

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How BBC radio programmes misled by adding one letter and a plural

For years the BBC has, in the context of Israel-related stories, defined the term ‘settlements’ as follows:

“Settlements are communities established by Israel on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

This includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.”

For years too, BBC audiences have been told time and time again that “Jewish settlements” are “illegal under international law”.

Consider then how the average BBC audience member would have understood statements concerning “settlements” that appeared in several BBC radio programmes on July 19th. [emphasis added]

In a news bulletin broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today‘ (from 02:04:51 here) listeners were told by newsreader Diana Speed that:

“The Israeli parliament has passed a law declaring that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country. The nation-state law downgrades Arabic as an official language and says Jewish settlements are in the national interest”.

In the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘, presenter Julian Marshall introduced the 11 minute-long lead item (from 0:01:00 here) by telling listeners around the world that:

“…parliament passed a law declaring that only Jews have the right to self-determination in the country. What’s known as the nation-state law also downgrades Arabic as an official language and says Jewish settlements are in the national interest.”

On the same day, listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ heard presenter Dan Damon similarly introduce that show’s twelve and a half-minute long lead item (from 0:00:15 here):

“The law downgrades Arabic as an official language. It says Jewish settlements are in the national interest.”

But is that actually what the legislation says?

In the original Hebrew the relevant clause is titled התיישבות יהודית” – ‘Jewish settlement’, not settlements – and when translated into English it says that:

“The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”

In other words, that clause of the law (which comes after clauses relating to Israel’s connections with Jews around the world and immigration) refers to places of permanent residence for Jews in Israel as a whole. Contrary to what listeners to BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio were told, the law does not say that “Jewish settlements are in the national interest”. It does say that the development of Jewish settlement is viewed as a national value.

That clause of the law does not refer specifically to communities in areas which came under Israel’s control as a result of the Six Day war as – given that added ‘S’ and the use of “are” instead of “is” – listeners to the three BBC radio programmes quoted above may well have understood, particularly in light of the fact that the BBC has on countless occasions over the years promoted a highly specific definition of the term ‘settlements’.

As for the claim concerning the ‘downgrading’ of the Arabic language, as noted here previously in relation to an article on the same topic published on the BBC News website:

“…the part referring to language in fact reads as follows:

“The state’s language is Hebrew.

 The Arabic language has a special status in the state; Regulating the use of Arabic in state institutions or by them will be set in law.

 This clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.””

Some eight hours after the initial publication of that BBC News website report which originally made similar claims concerning the ‘downgrading’ of Arabic, it was amended to inform readers that the legislation “ascribes Arabic “special status” and says its standing before the law came into effect will not be harmed”. Listeners to these three radio programmes have of course seen no such clarification. 

Related Articles:

BBC News website framing of Israeli legislation

 

 

 

UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the first five minutes of an item relating to the weekend’s events in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip that was aired in the July 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme was given over to an unchallenged polemic from UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.

Up until this point in the item listeners had not been told that some 200 projectiles had been launched by terror factions in the Gaza Strip at Israeli communities over the weekend. They had not heard an accurate description of the building – a Hamas training facility – in which the two teenagers had been located when they were accidentally killed. Neither had they been informed that this latest round of violence began when an IDF officer was wounded in a grenade attack at the border on July 13th. They had however heard a severely whitewashed account of terror attacks perpetrated along the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip during the past three and a half months.

Presenter John Humphrys next brought in the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Tom Bateman (from 01:39:29 here). [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Humphrys: “Chris Gunness; thank you very much for that and let’s turn to, as I say, Tom Bateman our correspondent. Tom, I was trying to suggest to Mr Gunness what the Israelis would say. What are they in fact saying this morning, if anything?”

Bateman: “Well, you know, it was a significant flare-up over the weekend and I think, you know, eh..on a similar scale we saw a couple of months ago.”

In fact, 25% fewer attacks took place on May 29-30 than on July 13-14. Bateman than went on to tell listeners that Israel had been “bombing the Gaza Strip” rather than carefully selected terrorist infrastructure as is actually the case.

Bateman: “Whereby, you know, you had Israel bombing the Gaza Strip – it said more than 40 militant sites – and at the same time the Israelis say up to 200 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. Now one of those rockets hit a house in the town of Sderot: people were wounded.”

While Bateman did inform listeners of the scale of attacks launched from the Gaza Strip, he failed to clarify who fired the missiles and presented the numbers with unnecessary ‘Israel says’ qualification. As was the case in BBC World Service news bulletins, while listeners had heard plenty about two teenagers – or “children” – killed in Gaza, they were not told that the wounded in Sderot also included people in that age group.  Bateman continued:

Bateman: “So the Israeli perspective is very much about that point of provocation. They’ve said – the Israeli Defence Forces said over the weekend that it is increasing the number of Iron Dome anti-missile systems in central and southern Israel. But I think, you know, the real decision maker here is the Israeli security cabinet and there are even more hawkish elements in the right-wing coalition to Benjamin Netanyahu that have been saying that – for example – the ceasefire was allowing Hamas to dictate the conditions. Naftali Bennett, a member of the security cabinet, was Tweeting over the weekend in effect suggesting that this was Israel caving into Hamas who was dictating the terms to this Egyptian mediation.”

As documented here previously, BBC coverage of the three months of Palestinian arson attacks that have destroyed some 7,400 acres of farmland, woodland and nature reserves and caused millions of dollars-worth of damage has been very poor indeed. It is therefore highly unlikely that listeners would be able to fill in the gaps for themselves as they heard Bateman’s tepid description of that terrorism, together with his introduction of the theme of “asymmetric warfare”.

Bateman: “But I think the tensions are going to continue to simmer, John, because what Israel has now been concerned about is this…what’s been happening on a near daily basis, which has been Palestinians at the fence flying kites and filling condoms with helium and sending them over the fence with flammable objects tied to them and burning fields. And you now have this sort of spectre that I think will be seen from the outside – and this is tension on Mr Netanyahu – as a sort of asymmetric warfare because the Israelis were using airstrikes against people over the weekend who were sending these kites over the fence.”

While failing to clarify that Egypt and Israel enforce closures of their borders with the Gaza Strip precisely because of Hamas terrorism, Bateman closed with a reference to an incident on July 13th but refrained from informing listeners that the “15 year-old boy” was climbing the border fence when shot.

Bateman: “The Palestinians say that this is simply protest against the blockade that continues by Israel and by Egypt. It is made worse by the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority imposing sanctions on Hamas in Gaza – on some of the public sector payments. But, you know, those tensions at the border are going to continue. There was a 15 year-old boy shot dead by the Israelis again at the fence on Friday and I think, you know, that issue over how Israel responds to what’s happening at the fence will increase the political pressure on Mr Netanyahu.”

Later on in the same edition of ‘Today’ listeners heard another item (from 02:50:20 here) relating to the same topic which was introduced by presenter Justin Webb as follows:

Webb: “We heard earlier in the programme about the worst exchange of hostilities between Gaza [sic] and…err…Israel since the war in 2014. There is now a fragile ceasefire but Chris Gunness, the spokesman for UNRWA the United Nations relief agency that operates in Gaza, said he condemned what had happened.”

Radio 4 listeners then heard part of Gunness’ previously aired unchallenged polemic recycled:

Gunness: “These deaths illustrate tragically the dangers of using overwhelming air strikes in a heavily populated area. Imagine a foreign army using massive air power on a building in central London and two British children are killed and ten wounded. That would rightly…there would rightly be international outrage. Imagine if that attack by a foreign army had already killed 146 people since the end of March of which 21 have been children. Imagine if 15,000 Brits had been wounded by that foreign army of which over 8,000 had been hospitalised, over 4,000 of them wounded by live fire. That’s what’s happened in Gaza since the end of March: make no mistake. And there rightly should be international outrage and condemnation.”

Now a quarter of the way into the four-minute item, Webb introduced former IDF spokesman Peter Lerner, whom he proceeded to interrupt repeatedly.

After Lerner had clarified the number of missiles fired from Gaza on July 14th, the number of acres of land in Israel destroyed by Palestinian arson attacks and the fact that Iran had funded the ‘Great Return March’ to the tune of $45 million which could have been used to improve Gaza’s infrastructure, Webb interrupted him with the false suggestion that the two teenagers accidentally killed because they were in a building that listeners had still not been told was a Hamas training facility were deliberately targeted.

Webb: “But the point Chris Gunness was making was that even if you accept all of that, attacking a place where there are children, killing two children, is not a proper proportionate response.”

When Lerner pointed out that Hamas “basically wrote the book on the use of human shields”, Webb interrupted him again.

Webb: “But even if that is the case, is it right to kill the shields?”

When Lerner raised the topic of Hamas’ accountability for the events, Webb interrupted once more.

Webb: “Well what about an investigation then that looks at both sides?”

As we see listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on July 16th heard a total of eleven minutes and forty seconds of content relating to a story based around the deaths of two teenagers. However, not once in all that time were they told that the building in which the two were located was a Hamas training facility with access to the terror group’s underground tunnel network. Rather, even at the end of both items, listeners were still under the mistaken impression that this was just some random “building in a popular gathering place in Gaza City, a park where many families go” as Chris Gunness falsely claimed and – significantly – as Hamas tried to spin the story.

So much for the BBC’s supposed obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

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UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part one

Gaza missile attacks get 44 words on the BBC News website

An overview of BBC WS July 14 news bulletins

 

 

 

UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part one

The July 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme Today included an item (from 01:3:24 here) in which UNRWA spokesman (and former BBC employee) Chris Gunness was given free rein to preach five minutes’ worth of completely unchallenged propaganda and distortions.

Gunness’ tenuous link to the subject supposedly under discussion was portrayed by presenter John Humphrys as follows:  

Humphrys: “Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in an attack by Israel at the weekend in Gaza. They were pupils at a school run by the United Nations relief agency. It’s been described as the worst exchange of hostilities between the two sides since the war in 2014. A ceasefire was called yesterday but the peace [sic] is fragile. I’m joined on the line by our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman and Christopher Gunness of the United Nations relief agency. Chris Gunness; what happened on Saturday?”

Why the BBC – with its offices in Jerusalem and Gaza – should need Gunness to tell audiences “what happened on Saturday” is unclear but listeners then heard a distorted version of the story which, not surprisingly given Gunness’ record, dovetails with the version put out by Hamas and its supporters.

Gunness: “There was an Israeli airstrike on a building in a popular gathering place in Gaza City, a park where many families go, adjacent to the building. [It] Struck two children, Amir and Louay, as you say UNRWA students, they were killed. At least ten people were wounded.”

As shown in a video produced by Hamas, that “park” is in fact an open space next to an unfinished building intended to be a library but instead long used by Hamas as an urban warfare training facility that includes access to Hamas’ tunnel network. John Humphrys made no effort whatsoever to challenge Gunness’ echoing of Hamas propaganda or to clarify that the people he described as “children” were youths aged 15 and 16 who – despite the fact that missile fire by terror groups into Israel and retaliatory strikes had been ongoing for hours at the time of the incident – were reportedly playing in the Hamas facility. Instead, Humphrys allowed Gunness’ polemic to proceed unhindered.

Gunness: “The killings of children, John, in any context must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. These deaths illustrate tragically the dangers of using overwhelming air strikes in a heavily populated area. Imagine a foreign army using massive air power on a building in central London and two British children are killed and ten wounded. That would rightly…there would rightly be international outrage. Imagine if that attack by a foreign army had already killed 146 people since the end of March of which 21 have been children. Imagine if 15,000 Brits had been wounded by that foreign army of which over 8,000 had been hospitalised, over 4,000 of them wounded by live fire. That’s what’s happened in Gaza since the end of March: make no mistake. And there rightly should be international outrage and condemnation.”

Humphrys did not bother to clarify to listeners that Gunness’ imaginary scenario would only be relevant if the ruling British authorities had been firing hundreds of mortars and rockets at the civilians that “foreign army” was charged with protecting and “Brits” had repeatedly tried to breach the border with that foreign country while carrying out scores of terror attacks. Instead – apparently quite at ease with Gunness’ whitewashing of Palestinian terror – he went on to presume to speak for Israel.

Humphrys: “Well we were hoping to speak to an Israeli minister. He had – or we understood that he’d agreed to talk to us earlier this morning but he has since pulled out of that interview. But what they would say – and I can say this [laughs] because we’ve heard them say it many times before – they are under massive provocation. Their very existence is threatened – or would be if Hamas had its way – and they have to defend themselves.”

Gunness: “Look, we’ve all seen the pictures of the fence and we are very clear in the United Nations…the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights has called on Israel to ensure that its security forces do not resort to the use of excessive force, particularly at that fence. Under international law Palestinians first of all have the right to peaceful assembly and expression.”

Humphrys failed to clarify to listeners that no-one on the Israeli side has suggested that Palestinians in Gaza or elsewhere do not have the right to peaceful assembly or that “peaceful assembly” is not an accurate description of what has been going on along the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip for three and a half months.

Gunness: “Israeli security forces, according to our top human rights official, in policing the Gaza fence must use only necessary and proportionate means to discharge their duties. Exceptionally, they may resort to lethal force in cases of extreme necessity as a last resort and in response to an imminent threat of death or risk of serious injury. But – and, you know, I say but – it is difficult to see how tyre burning, stone throwing or even Molotov cocktails thrown from a significant distance at heavily protected security forces in defensive positions can be seen to constitute such a threat.”

Humphrys made no effort to inform listeners that in April, May and June Palestinians engaged in Hamas facilitated violence at that border carried out, inter alia, 294 attacks with petrol bombs, 20 shooting attacks, 35 IED attacks and 5 grenade attacks. He also failed to challenge Gunness’ subsequent inaccurate description of the Gaza Strip as being under “occupation”.

Gunness: “In the context of an occupation such as Gaza, killings resulting from the unlawful use of force may also constitute wilful killings which are a grave breach of the 4th Geneva Convention and I think that is why the Secretary General has called for an independent and transparent investigation into the killings in Gaza from the end of March. Will there be one? Well what a shame we didn’t have an Israeli official on this programme to ask that question. Will there be a transparent an independent investigation? Because that is what the world’s top diplomat has called for.”

Once again Humphrys presumed to respond on behalf of Israel:

Humphrys: “Yeah but you know how Israel will respond to that, don’t you? Because Israel would say the world community – put the word in quotation marks if you like – is weighted against us. People hate us for…because we are Israel and we lose the propaganda battle all the time.”

Gunness: “John, I’m sorry – I’m not on this programme to answer for Israel. As I say it’s…”

Humphrys: “No I understand but I mean you’re making the case for sanctions, at least for an investigation to be undertaken into Israel’s actions. I’m trying to put to you what they would say if they were here.”

Gunness: “John, it was you that used the word sanctions. I’m not making the case for sanctions. Can we please be very clear. I have not come on…”

Humphrys: “OK; you want an investigation.”

Listeners then heard that UNRWA condemned Hamas rocket fire – four years ago. They did not however hear that some 200 projectiles had been fired at Israeli communities in just over 24 hours.

Gunness: “The UN Secretary General has called for a transparent and an independent investigation into the killings that have taken place in Gaza since the end of March. I don’t think that is an unreasonable thing for the United Nations to call for. We have condemned the rockets coming out of Gaza. We have condemned Hamas rockets. We didn’t do it from the comfort of our offices in London or Tel Aviv or New York or Washington. Our Commissioner General did it from inside Gaza while the war raged in 2014. So let’s bat that old canard…”

Humphrys: “Alright.”

Gunness: “UNRWA condemns these rockets in the strongest possible terms but at the same time we condemn the killing of teenagers – UNRWA teenagers. They have a dignity and a destiny that must be protected and nurtured and that is why we condemn those killings.”

After that five-minute long unchallenged tirade from Gunness, Humphrys moved on to a report from the BBC’s Tom Bateman. Whether or not listeners to BBC Radio 4 then got to hear the crucial information and context entirely missing from the first five minutes of this item – and how Chris Gunness’ propaganda was later recycled – will be discussed in part two of this post.   

 

BBC Complaints defends Bowen’s inaccurate history

As noted here last week a report on Prince William’s visit to Jordan, Israel and Palestinian Authority controlled territories that was aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on June 25th included an inaccurate portrayal of a historic event.

Part of the conversation between presenter Martha Kearney and the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen went as follows:

Kearney: “And interesting how some of the various groups have been greeting the visit. The Palestinian diplomatic representative in London said – referring to the Balfour Declaration – said that this is…eh…considered to be an act of indirect apology.”

Bowen: “Yes. Balfour Declaration of course being the decision by Britain when it was the colonial power in Palestine to say that they supported the establishment of a Jewish state – that was about 100 years ago. So for the Palestinians it’s as if it happened yesterday: they’re very, very angry about it still.” [emphasis added]

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning that inaccurate portrayal, pointing out that while the Balfour Declaration was issued on November 2nd 1917, British forces did not complete their First World War ‘Sinai and Palestine Campaign’ until October 30th 1918 – almost a year after the Balfour Declaration was issued – and that the region was not under British control – “colonial” or otherwise – when the Balfour Declaration was issued as claimed by the BBC’s Middle East editor.

The response received from BBC Complaints includes the following:

“We raised your complaint with the programme team and senior staff, who respond:

The presenter, Martha Kearney, put it to our Middle East Editor that Prince William’s visit was being seen as an ‘indirect apology’ for the Balfour Declaration, in the words of the Palestinian Representative in London who had commented on the visit.

As this was the first mention of the Balfour Declaration, Jeremy Bowen responded by attempting to explain in a few words the significance of Balfour for the audience. His summary was not intended to mislead but rather help listeners unfamiliar with the complex historical background and give context to Prince William’s trip. His phrase ‘about a hundred years ago’ clearly indicated that he was précising the details for the benefit for the listener and not setting out an exact sequence of historical events. Nor do we think ‘colonial power’ is an inappropriate phrase to cover this period, given that at the time Britain had a large Empire and went onto administer Palestine at the behest of the League of Nations in 1923.”

Quite how that inaccurate presentation of the chronology of events can be claimed to “help listeners unfamiliar with the complex historical background” is of course unclear. So much for BBC editorial standards of ‘accuracy’. 

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