BBC film exposes falsehoods in two previous reports

Two months ago, on March 18th, BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme aired an item which included an interview presented by host Nick Robinson as follows:

Robinson: “The United Nations has said that over a year of weekly protests at the border with Gaza [sic] 193 Palestinians have been killed and more than 26 thousand injured. Among them is Dr Tarek Loubani, a Canadian Palestinian associate professor at the University of Western Ontario.”

Loubani: “I’d like to say that I was doing something heroic when I got shot but I wasn’t. I was standing. It was quiet, there was nothing else happening on the field. I was just loitering, talking to some of my colleagues. I was marked clearly in greens and had been on the field for a few hours so it was obvious to the soldiers, who were very close to us, exactly what we were doing. And I did not expect that I would be targeted. Up until that point it had been six weeks with no injuries of medics. All of a sudden I heard a loud bang and felt an incredible pain in my legs and found myself on the ground. The paramedic who rescued me, Musa Abuhassanin, Musa was killed an hour later when he was shot in the chest.”

As was noted here at the time, BBC audiences had previously heard that story from Tarek Loubani in an article that appeared on the BBC News website in May 2018 and which included a link to his blog.

“Dr Loubani, an emergency physician who practises in London, Ontario, and at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza, said in a blog post that one paramedic was killed and several others were wounded on Monday as Israeli troops opened fire during the protests.”

As was noted here on both those occasions:

“…a photograph of Captain Musa Abuhassanin also appeared on a poster released by Hamas showing some of its members killed on May 14th [2018].”

The ‘paramedic’ identified by Hamas in that poster as a member of its internal security apparatus turned up again in BBC Two’s recent film titled ‘One Day in Gaza’.

At 29:50 the film showed an interview with Musa Abuhassanin’s mother who told how, on May 14th 2018, she was taken by bus along with others from her local mosque to an “unofficial protest site” near the border which was “near a graveyard” and “right next to a Hamas military training area”.

31:18 “Four paramedics were dispatched to the area…one of them was Aintisar’s son, Musa. […] Musa was a paramedic in Gaza’s civil defence force – part of the Hamas ministry of the interior.”

Viewers heard an account of events at that site which contrasts sharply to that already given twice to BBC audiences by Tarek Loubani.

33:00: “Eyewitnesses say at least two armed Palestinians stood aside from the crowd and began firing on Israeli soldiers.”

A member of the IDF interviewed concerning the same incident spoke of fifteen to twenty shooters and viewers saw real time footage of shooting and IED explosions.

36:14: “Twenty-one people were killed at the graveyard that afternoon. At least eight of them were alleged [sic] members of al Qassam brigades, the military wing of Hamas. Two of them were children. No Israelis were hurt. The Hamas leadership denies they sanctioned a military operation that day but admits that Palestinians opened fire.”

55:02: “The paramedic Musa Abuhassanin was one of the dead claimed by Hamas. Palestinians say [sic] that like most of the dead, he had nothing to do with the organisation’s armed wing and was posing no threat to Israel when he was shot.”

According to the Twitter feed of the film’s producer Olly Lambert, he did his filming in the Gaza Strip in December 2018 at the same time that the ‘Today’ programme’s Mishal Husain was there.

Surely then the BBC should have realised by late December that the account of the incident it had promoted in May 2018 (and which is still available online) according to which the IDF opened fire without provocation was inaccurate and that the paramedic who appeared in Tarek Loubani’s story was actually a member of Hamas.

Nevertheless, three months after Lambert had filmed his interviews in the Gaza Strip, the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme once again provided an unchallenged platform for Tarek Loubani’s activist propaganda.

Related Articles:

BBC again amplifies Gaza claims from political activist medic

Former ISM activist medic reappears in BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ show

BBC Two’s ‘One Day in Gaza’ adheres to existing BBC practice

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BBC radio listeners get misinformation from Lyse Doucet

The day after the general election in Israel – April 10th – listeners to BBC radio stations heard commentary from the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet who had been ‘parachuted’ in (along with Martha Kearney) to cover the event.

That day’s edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 1:33:13 here) during which listeners again heard Doucet claim that the election had been called by Netanyahu alone. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Doucet: “But in Israel […] it’s not just about winning the election; it’s winning the battle to form a new coalition. And the numbers look like it is the Right-wing, that the prime minister’s been wooing ever since he announced this election campaign, that he looks set to be the man who can do the job. But the arithmetic is still complicated. There’s…Israel also gives a new name to horse trading and electoral promises and electoral…ah…pulling back promises. So we have to wait and see. It’s not going to be straightforward.”

Kearney: “And what are these smaller parties like – the kinds that Benjamin Netanyahu are talking to?”

Doucet: “Let me say another thing about this election. This has told us two things about Israel. One is that in a way Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu both won and lost. Perhaps Benjamin Netanyahu will get to stay in power, get to try to avoid those indictments on corruption and fraud, but he has been…trounced in a way by Benny Gantz. A total newcomer to politics has surged ahead to show Israelis that there is an alternative. So it is in a sense a victory for Benny Gantz but also for the electoral landscape. The far-Right parties who also were the newcomers – people had thought that they may be the kingmakers. As the votes show now they did not enter…they’re not going to enter the Knesset; the parties who were condemned here by many Israelis as being racist and homophobic.”

As we saw in a previous post, Doucet had likewise referred to unnamed “far Right-wing racist parties” – i.e. more than one – in a report the day before even though until that point the BBC had confined itself to categorising one party – ‘Otzma Yehudit’ (Jewish Power) as racist.

A report from Doucet was also aired in the April 10th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 00:44 here) and the same claim was repeated.

Doucet: “This is a man [Netanyahu] who managed to win again even though indictments are looming on three big charges of corruption, bribery and breach of trust. But the attorney general is still expected to press charges and Israel now does not have any legislation which says you can’t indict a sitting prime minister so he’s going to want to have politicians who’ll say ‘well no, you can keep governing even though you’ll have to fight those indictments; it’ll go on in the background but please, Benjamin Netanyahu, keep ruling us’ and that seems to be the message from the political electorate which is moving to the Right – not the far Right. Some of the new far Right parties didn’t manage to make it into the Knesset and some Israelis here see that as a victory for democracy. These were parties described as racist and homophobic.” 

So which “new”, “far Right”, “racist and homophobic” parties (plural) was Doucet talking about? The answer to that question was revealed in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 34:12 here) presented by Tim Franks.

Doucet: “…it was said that he [Netanyahu] called this election nine months earlier [sic]. He was trying to preempt the attorney general who basically would not be preempted. He came out with his report on the three corruption cases where the prime minister is facing likely indictment before the elections. […] Israel currently doesn’t have any laws which say that you can [sic] indict a sitting prime minister. He was hoping for one of two things: either that there would be a…some kind of acceptance by the parties in his coalition that he can continue to govern even after he’s indicted – in other words while the political [sic – legal] processes take their course.” […]

Franks: “And Lyse, it was said of his last coalition that it was the most Right-wing in Israel’s history. What were…how’s the new one going to shape up?”

Doucet: “There were worries before the election that it would not just be a Right-wing but a far Right-wing government and that prime minister Netanyahu was reaching out to new parties just formed which were racist and homophobic – so much so that even members of the Democrats in the United States and AIPAC, the American Jewish organisation, said that they were not consistent with Jewish values. The way the votes have turned out they did not cross the threshold – at least two of the far-Right parties – to take seats in the senate [sic] so maybe more of the more familiar Right-wing and religious parties which will form part of his coalition.”

The one party which garnered criticism from AIPAC and others is ‘Otzma Yehudit’ which – contrary to Doucet’s claims – is not “new” or “just formed” but has been in existence since 2012. In this election that party ran together with two others on a list called the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URWP).

Where Doucet got the idea that the URWP “did not cross the threshold” is unclear. The exit polls conducted by the three Israeli TV channels predicted that the list would secure between four and five seats in the Knesset and the final count gave it five seats.

One new party which did not gain enough votes to secure any seats in the Knesset was ‘The New Right’ party headed Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. Nobody has branded that party “racist and homophobic”.

Obviously the BBC’s chief international correspondent did not bother to familiarise herself with the differences between ‘Otzma Yehudit’ and ‘The New Right’ before giving BBC audiences her ‘expert analysis’. Clearly too she did not make any effort to check out the facts before repeatedly telling listeners around the world that there are “racist and homophobic” parties – plural – in Israel.

We have seen before – especially during conflicts – that journalists ‘parachuted’ in to Israel to cover a major event often produce low-quality and inaccurate reporting due to a lack of familiarity with the subject matter. Nevertheless, this is not some junior reporter but the BBC’s chief international correspondent and one would expect that if the BBC is going to go to the expense of flying in extra journalists to report a specific story, it would at least ensure that they are familiar with the basic facts in order to ensure that the corporation’s funding public gets accurate reporting. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Lyse Doucet reports election campaign speculation as fact

BBC’s peace plan framing and speculations – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the April 16th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which related in part to an unpublished US administration peace plan and which adhered to existing BBC framing of that subject.

Later on in the same show (from 1:33:59 here), listeners heard a longer item on the same topic introduced by co-presenter Mishal Husain.

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

Husain: “Post-election talks are continuing in Israel with Benjamin Netanyahu expected to be formally named prime minister for a fifth term tomorrow.”

In fact the Israeli president was due to task the candidate recommended by most party leaders with the forming of a new government. Husain went on to cite the same newspaper report referred to earlier by Knell.

Husain: “And then, most likely in June, President Trump is expected to unveil what he’s called ‘the deal of the century’ between Israel and the Palestinians. The Washington Post reports that the plan will involve Palestinian autonomy rather than a sovereign state and ahead of its publication a group of 30 senior European figures including former prime ministers and former foreign ministers have said Europe should reaffirm its commitment to a two-state solution.”

The letter concerned can be found here. Without explaining the concept of the two-state solution, Husain introduced her guest.

Husain: “Well Douglas Alexander – former Labour MP and former Foreign Office minister – is one of the signatories to that letter and he’s with us. […] Why make this statement before we’ve seen what’s in the Trump peace plan?”

Alexander: “Because the core argument of the letter is that statehood for the Palestinians is not a gift to be given or indeed a gift to be denied by Donald Trump but a right to be recognised in international law. For decades the United States has been the key actor in this region trying to secure peace. But I think it’s important to recognise that this administration has taken a series of dangerous steps in a very dangerous region. Whether that’s the withdrawing of funding for the 5 million Palestinians who are supported by the UN Work [sic] and Relief Agency, whether that’s the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, whether it was the recognition last week of Israeli sovereignty in relation to the Golan Heights. So at that point I think as Europeans we face a fundamental choice: are we going to be part of an apparatus of enablement for the permanent annexation of Palestinian land or are we going to continue to speak up for democracy, for human rights and for that two-state solution that’s been the goal for so many years?”

Husain failed to challenge that use of the politically motivated term ‘Palestinian land’ and made no effort to ask Alexander how he proposes to bring about a two-state solution given that the Palestinian Authority does not represent the whole of the Palestinian people and does not control part of the relevant territory. Neither did she inquire how ‘speaking up for democracy’ is served by advancing the creation of a state on territory currently ruled in part by a terrorist organisation which oppresses human rights and in part by an entity headed by a ‘president’ whose term of office ended over a decade ago. Instead, Husain in fact just repeated her first question.

Husain: “But you are making an assumption based on the actions you list about what will be in the Trump peace plan.”

Alexander: “Well let’s look at what Donald Trump has actually done over the last couple of years. His strategy seems to be pursuing a policy systematically to weaken the Palestinian Authority while lifting restraints on Israeli annexation of land in the West Bank.”

Although no land in “the West Bank” has been annexed at all in “the last couple of years”, Husain failed to challenge that falsehood.

Alexander: “And in that sense the destruction is coming from the Trump administration rather than the position we articulate in the letter, which is the end solution has to be based on the long-standing parameters.”

Husain made no effort to remind listeners that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected that “end solution” over the decades.

Husain: “Would you acknowledge though the limited power of European leaders in all of this? It is really the United States which is…which is the key influence on the…on the Israeli government.”

Once again we see the BBC portraying Israel as the only active party in the conflict.

Alexander: “Oh absolutely. I recognise that the United States has a key influence in the region but as Europeans we face a choice. Do we stand by a crushed and marginalised people or do we accede to a view by Donald Trump of the international community. Let’s be clear: this is a Trump administration that fundamentally believes multilateralism is nonsense. Look at the institutions created after the second World War – the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, the World Bank, the IMF, WTO. All of those as far as Donald Trump is concerned are really just a mechanism for small countries to rip off the United States. So we face a choice: do we stand for multilateralism and international law or do we accede to that radical viewpoint?”

Husain refrained from asking what that theory has to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict. She then side-stepped another opportunity to explain to listeners why the two-state solution has “gone nowhere” – even when Alexander replied to her next question with a blatant falsehood.

Husain: “But you seem to be standing for an idea, a pledge – the two-state solution – which has gone nowhere for the last 25 years. Isn’t it time to think about something else?”

Alexander: “I think it’s certainly right to recognise that the Palestinians for 25 years have been negotiating to try to secure that outcome but in the face of what we’re now witnessing from the Trump administration and indeed from the statements we heard from Netanyahu last week, we can pretend that nothing’s changed, we could certainly do that. Or we can do what I think is the just and decent thing by an oppressed and marginalised people who aspire within the rules of international law to something that Israel has enjoyed since 1948 which is a land of their own. That seems to me a perfectly reasonable objective for European politicians.”

The BBC’s idea of balance to that superficial softball interview in which Douglas Alexander was given an unchallenged platform from which to promote assorted distortions and falsehoods was an interview with Israeli MK Sharren Haskel in which an impatient-sounding Husain interrupted her no fewer than eight times and brought the interview to an abrupt close when Haskel began talking about the prioritisation of “weapons, hatred and war” by the Palestinian leadership in the Gaza Strip over the creation of an autonomous entity serving the interests of the Palestinian people.

Once again we see that the BBC’s portrayal of the as yet unpublished US peace proposal adheres to strict and selective framing in which there is no room for information which would enhance audience understanding of the topic, such as Palestinian rejection of that plan, Palestinian rejection of previous proposals, Palestinian rejection of the Jewish state or the twelve-year split in Palestinian leadership which renders the two-state solution irrelevant.

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BBC’s peace plan framing and speculations – part one

BBC’s peace plan framing and speculations – part one

As we have most recently seen in BBC coverage of the Israeli election and in an article by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent, the corporation’s framing a US administration peace plan which has not yet even been made public continues.

That framing has included the failure to clarify to audiences that the Palestinian Authority has already rejected the US initiative even before its publication, the failure to clarify that, significantly, the Palestinian Authority does not represent all the Palestinian factions and a total absence of information concerning Palestinian rejection of past peace proposals.

Additionally, BBC audiences have seen the two-state solution presented as “the formula for peace negotiations” but with that term only partially explained: the all-important phrase “two states for two peoples” is consistently absent from BBC presentation.  Instead, audiences repeatedly see the two-state solution defined according to the Palestinian interpretation of it as meaning a Palestinian state on all of the territory occupied by Jordan and Egypt between 1948 and 1967.

Unsurprisingly, the BBC’s framing portrays the success of the as yet unpublished peace plan as dependent upon Israeli actions alone, with the Palestinian side reduced to a passive entity.

That pre-emptive framing continued in two items aired on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme on April 16th. Listeners first heard a report (from 37:28 here) from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell introduced by co-presenter Justin Webb.

Webb: “Israel’s political parties meet the president today following the election of course. Yolande Knell is our correspondent in Jerusalem. What happens then, Yolande?”

Knell gave an explanation of the process of the president’s consultation with the heads of the parties which gained seats in the recent election in order to decide which party leader will be tasked with trying to form a new government before going on:

Knell: “…it’s extremely likely that it will be Benjamin Netanyahu that’s allowed to form the new government because he did win the greatest number of seats in the new parliament [not accurate – Ed.] and because he has support, we know, from the smaller Right-wing and pro-settler parties, he’ll be able to control the majority seats. And Israelis saying this is most likely to be the most Right-wing government in Israeli history. That was also the boast of the last government too. And of course this new government will be put in place – he’ll have 28 days to decide – Mr Netanyahu – if he can put…how he’ll put his government together…ahm…but this will come at a really important time.”

The item continued with pure speculation based partly on an article in a newspaper.

Webb: “Well an important time because Donald Trump says he has a peace proposal and a peace proposal that is acceptable to…ahm…err…the Netanyahu government potentially. In that case, if that were to be announced relatively soon, what would it be?”

Knell: “Well we’ve been looking for a lot of clues. Ahm…of course the big question is could the US abandon the two-state solution: this long-time international formula for peace that envisages the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. It’s been written up in UN resolutions and it’s also been the cornerstone of US policy for over two decades now. But we had yesterday the Washington Post reporting that the US proposal probably wouldn’t include a fully sovereign Palestinian state and then the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo giving a series of congressional hearings over the last two weeks and in questioning he didn’t give too much away for sure ahead of the publication of this long-awaited Trump administration peace plan but he did say that…or he seemed to imply that the idea of the two-state solution was bunched in with what he called ‘a failed old set of ideas not worth re-treading’ and he kept talking, as we’ve heard before, about recognising realities.

What’s also been pointed out really importantly is that the Trump administration and Mr Pompeo didn’t speak out against a campaign promise that was made very controversially by Mr Netanyahu in the last days of the election campaign where he promised to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank where there are Israeli settlements…ah…put them under full Israeli control. And…err…of course settlements seen as illegal under international law but the Palestinians say that would leave them with no contiguous territory for a Palestinian state.”

As we see Knell’s speculative portrayal adheres to the BBC’s standard framing seen to date. The second item on the same topic in this programme will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Plett Usher continues to promote her Israel narratives

BBC News amplifies PLO’s interpretation of the two-state solution

BBC News silent on Abbas’ rejection of Jewish state

BBC Radio 4’s peace process tango for one – part one

BBC Radio 4’s peace process tango for one – part two

Why is the BBC’s failure to properly report the Jewish state issue important?

 

 

Another BBC absurd on ‘language when reporting terrorism’

In January 2018 we noted that in a report about the Israeli TV drama series ‘Fauda’:

“…the BBC has expanded its selectively applied guidance on ‘language when reporting terrorism’ to apply even to reporting on fictional Palestinian characters in a TV drama show. Can it get any more ridiculous?”

The April 2nd edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an interview with Fauda’s co-creator Avi Issacharoff (from 2:45:13 here) during which presenter Martha Kearney posed the following question: [emphasis added]

Kearney: “And do you try to challenge the audiences on both sides of this very divided…eh…territory in terms of the…you have people – Palestinians – who’ve been carrying out actions that could be described as terrorists and Israeli special forces out of control so both…both sides are challenged.”

Yes, the BBC’s controversial policy on ‘language when reporting on terrorism’ continues to influence even items concerning a TV drama.

Related Articles:

BBC reports on fictional counter-terrorism but not the real thing

 

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part one

Listeners to the BBC’s domestic station Radio 4 had been prepared in advance for what the corporation apparently believed was going to be a major news event on Saturday, March 30th.

The March 29th edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ included a pre-emptive report (from 1:14:55 here) by Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman which utilised the standard framing of the ‘Great Return March’ to which BBC audiences have been exposed for an entire year.

That framing includes:

  • Erasing the fact that around 80% of those killed during the violent rioting at the border have been shown to be affiliated with various terror organisations – primarily Hamas.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by failing to provide audiences with a representative view of the number of attacks using firebombs, IEDs, grenades and guns, the number of border infiltrations and the number of rockets and mortars launched throughout the past year. As of March 29th 2019, BBC audiences had heard nothing whatsoever about the use of airborne explosive devices or the activities of Hamas’ so-called ‘night confusion/disturbance units’.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by uniformly describing them as ‘protests’, ‘demonstrations’ or ‘rallies’.
  • Failing to provide adequate context concerning the stated aims of the events including ‘right of returnand lifting of counter-terrorism measures.
  • Erasing or downplaying Hamas’ role in initiating, facilitating, organising, financing, executing and controlling the events and euphemising terrorists as ‘militants’.
  • Citing casualty figures provided by “health officials” without clarifying that they are part of the same terror group that organises the violent rioting.

Listeners heard presenter John Humphrys introduce the item: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Humphrys: “Tomorrow marks a year since Palestinians began protesting at Gaza’s fence with Israel. Hamas – the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip – is marking the anniversary calling for a million-person march at the fence.”

Audiences then heard an audio version of Bateman’s context-free report from a clinic in Gaza City which included the following:

Bateman: “22-year-old Iyyad who was shot at Gaza’s perimeter fence last May. He tells me he nearly lost his leg. He’s been coming here to the clinic for months to learn to walk again. Some seven thousand Palestinians have been injured by Israeli bullets in the last year. More than 190 have been killed. An Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian gunman last summer. As tomorrow’s anniversary looms, tensions have been ratcheting up.”

Bateman did not bother to clarify what his interviewee was doing at the time he was shot and while citing numbers of Palestinian casualties, erased both the terror affiliations of most of those killed and the violence in which they were participating from audience view.

That formula was again evident the next day in two news bulletins aired during the March 30th edition of ‘Today’. At 05:48 listeners were told by newsreader Chris Aldridge that:

“Thousands of Palestinians are gathering along the Israel-Gaza border to mark the start of weekly protests a year ago. Israeli forces have killed nearly 200 Palestinian demonstrators during that time while one Israeli soldier has died and a Palestinian is reported to have been shot dead this morning. The leader of Hamas, which controls Gaza, has called for a million people to join today’s action.”

In an additional news bulletin at 1:06:35 Aldridge told audiences:

“Thousands of Palestinians are gathering along the Israel-Gaza border to mark the start of weekly protests a year ago. Israeli forces have killed nearly 200 Palestinian demonstrators during that time and a Palestinian is reported to have been shot dead this morning.”

Audiences were not told that the man “shot dead this morning” was participating in violent rioting at the time and was apparently a member of the so-called ‘night disturbance units’ active along the border fence during darkness. Aldridge’s claim that “Palestinians are gathering” was shown to be premature in a third item aired at 1:57:30 which was introduced by presenter Nick Robinson.

Robinson: “All this week we’ve been hearing about the mounting tension ahead of the first anniversary of protests at the border between Gaza and Israel. There’s reports this morning that Israeli fire has killed a Palestinian man at that border. Tom Bateman is our Middle East correspondent. What do we know Tom?”

Bateman: “Well we know that a 20-year-old man has died already this morning. That was announced by the ministry of health here in Gaza. The circumstances are unclear. We don’t know if it was at one of the protest sites. It doesn’t appear to have been actually and it was very early in the morning. But already it adds to the tension and in the next hour or so after noon prayers there will be thousands of Palestinians who’ll make their way in buses and on foot to five protest sites at the perimeter fence with Gaza. On the other side of the fence the Israeli military build-up…ah…has led to there being around 200 snipers positioned all around the fence and three extra brigades of Israeli forces there.”

Robinson: “The Palestinians who go know the risk they take. The Israelis know the condemnation they will get if they open fire. Nothing seems to change.”

Bateman: “Well this will certainly be I think the biggest protest in months because of that first anniversary. The protests have actually…the numbers have really been dwindling over the weeks as they began a year ago, leaving a sort of hard-core of protesters who were going once a week. But I think the sense in Gaza is that people want to go to the fence to demonstrate. Now Hamas have called for these to be peaceful after some intensive negotiations…ah…indirect negotiations between the two sides. That of course remains to be seen. Israel is saying it is prepared for any eventuality with that build-up of troops. It comes at a time of elections in Israel – a very sensitive moment – and I think we’ll see as we enter the afternoon just how…just how that tension continues, just how it mounts and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said they are prepared for any eventualities.”

Listeners were then told that the upcoming Israeli election is a two-horse race.

Robinson: “Tom Bateman our Middle East correspondent thank you very much indeed. Yes, that election between the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and against the former military chief Benny Gantz is in just a few days.”

As we see listeners to the ‘Today’ programme heard a one-sided and highly sanitised portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ which adhered to the editorial policies that have been in evidence throughout the past twelve months. In part two of this post we will see whether Radio 4’s subsequent programmes throughout the day provided audiences with a more comprehensive picture.

 

Former ISM activist medic reappears in BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ show

h/t GB

Since February 28th BBC audiences have seen several examples of uncritical amplification of a UNHRC Commission of Inquiry into the ‘Great Return March’ events along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

BBC News website unquestioningly amplifies UNHRC’s report

BBC Radio 4 tells listeners that Gaza rioters were ‘innocent civilians’

Disproportionate focus in BBC News report on UNHRC speech

As has been documented here over the past twelve months, the BBC’s coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ weekly violent rioting has uniformly portrayed the events as mere “protests” and “demonstrations”. BBC reporting has serially downplayed or erased the violent nature of the events and the role of terror groups in the organisation and execution of the provocation has been repeatedly ignored.

On March 18th the Commission of Inquiry presented its report at the Human Rights Council’s 40th session in Geneva. Even before that presentation had taken place, the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ aired an item (from 02:49:40 here) in which that partisan framing of the ‘Great Return March’ rioting was repeated.

Presenter Nick Robinson introduced the item with a portrayal of Israel as an ‘occupying force’ in the Gaza Strip despite the fact that Israel completely withdrew from the territory nearly 14 years ago.

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

Robinson: “A commission established by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate what it calls the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians is due to deliver its conclusions later today. Israel has always insisted that it has no choice but to protect its border with Gaza using, if necessary, live fire and dismisses the report as anything but independent.”

Having framed those participating in year-long acts of violence as “civilians” despite the fact that studies have shown that the vast majority of those killed had links to terrorist organisations, Robinson went on to falsely assert that ‘the core facts are not in dispute’ even as he described the violent rioting as “protests”.

Robinson: “The core facts though are not really in dispute. The United Nations has said that over a year of weekly protests at the border with Gaza [sic] 193 Palestinians have been killed and more than 26 thousand injured. Among them is Dr Tarek Loubani, a Canadian Palestinian associate professor at the University of Western Ontario.”

Loubani: “I’d like to say that I was doing something heroic when I got shot but I wasn’t. I was standing. It was quiet, there was nothing else happening on the field. I was just loitering, talking to some of my colleagues. I was marked clearly in greens and had been on the field for a few hours so it was obvious to the soldiers, who were very close to us, exactly what we were doing. And I did not expect that I would be targeted. Up until that point it had been six weeks with no injuries of medics. All of a sudden I heard a loud bang and felt an incredible pain in my legs and found myself on the ground. The paramedic who rescued me, Musa Abuhassanin, Musa was killed an hour later when he was shot in the chest.”

Readers may recall that the BBC News website published an article about Loubani last May in which he made the same claims. As was documented here at the time:

“…a photograph of Captain Musa Abuhassanin also appeared on a poster released by Hamas showing some of its members killed on May 14th.”

As noted here when the BBC interviewed Loubani in 2015:

“…in addition to being a doctor, Kuwait-born Tarek Loubani (who moved to Canada at the age of ten) is a veteran political activist who in 2003 was arrested near Jenin and deported from Israel due to his activities with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Loubani was also arrested in Egypt in 2013 whilst trying to enter the Gaza Strip and in 2014 was detained at Ben Gurion airport.”

Robinson of course did not bother to provide his listeners with that relevant background information before introducing another doctor.

Robinson: “Well listening to that is an orthopaedic surgeon all too familiar with these sorts of injuries. He works at the al Shifa hospital. He’s Dr Mahmoud Mattar and he’s at the United Nations in Geneva today to hear what the UN Human Rights Commission will have to say. […]

Once again Robinson promoted the BBC’s chosen framing:

Robinson: “The Israeli military say that they often fire into the legs of protesters but that they only do it as a last resort and they do it to avoid killing people. Explain to us what the impact of the injury you treat and see is, please.”

After Mattar had described the injuries and the difficulties faced by hospitals trying to treat large numbers of patients (but without clarifying that the hospital where he works is run by the same terror organisation which organises the violent rioting), Robinson again gave an inaccurate portrayal of the past year’s events along the border.

Robinson: “The human toll is terrible but what do you expect from the commission because clearly Palestinians will say they have a right to protest peacefully but Israel will say if you approach the border you are a risk to the Israelis on the other side of the border and they have repeatedly warned that people who do approach the border may well be shot.”

Mattar replied with the claim that hospitals in the Gaza strip should be given better equipment in order to deal with the injuries and Robinson – obviously looking for a political sound-bite – interrupted him.

Robinson [interrupts] “So you think the right reaction today is a humanitarian response – more money for medical care – rather than a political response about who is to blame.”

Mattar: “Yes actually I’m not here to blame anyone actually. With all the aggression we know by all the international law that the protester have the right to demonstrate peacefully. In addition we also have the right to be treated fully as the international world.”

Robinson: “But of course the Israelis would say they have the right under international law to defend their border.”

Mattar: “Yes actually I’m talking from this point as a medical professional. I’m not know too much about the border and what happen in the border but actually what I know…”

Apparently realising that he was not going to get the reaction he was looking for, Robinson interrupted his interviewee again and closed the conversation.

Robinson [interrupts]: “But you will be back, Dr Mattar, in Gaza soon.”

Mattar: “Yeah, yeah.”

Robinson: “Well thank you so much for taking the time to join us.”

The BBC’s consistently one-sided coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ over the past twelve months, means that audiences lack essential background information on that topic. Rather than try to make up for the serial failure to clarify that what it uniformly portrays as “protests” and “demonstrations” is actually violent rioting which has included hundreds of petrol bomb attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and shooting attacks as well as infiltration attempts, this latest BBC item again downplays the threats facing Israel and ignores the fact that the violence is orchestrated by terror groups. Once again we see unquestioning amplification of the UNHRC report without any mention of its defects and the continuing promotion of a blatant politically motivated narrative.

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A BBC Jerusalem reporter’s framing of protests against Hamas – part one

On March 18th the BBC got round to telling listeners to one of its radio stations something about the demonstrations against Hamas which have been taking place in the Gaza Strip since last week.

That day’s edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item (from 37:47 here) by Yolande Knell in which – oddly – those and other recent events in the region were framed as being connected to the upcoming general election in Israel.

Presenter Nick Robinson began by referring to the terror attacks that took place the previous morning in Samaria which had hitherto been ignored by the BBC.

Robinson: “Tensions are rising ahead of Israel’s elections. The Israeli army says that a person has been killed and two seriously injured in a shooting near the Ariel settlement on the occupied West Bank. We can talk to our correspondent Yolande Knell. Tell us more about that incident, Yolande, please.”

Knell began by giving an account of the incident which – predictably – did not include the words terror or terrorist.

Knell: “Well the Israeli military is still searching this morning for a Palestinian man who was…ehm…this attacker yesterday in the West Bank. He killed an Israeli soldier of 19 years old and then wounded badly two other people. Basically he stole the gun of the soldier after stabbing him and then started firing at cars heading towards the nearby settlement. He took one of those cars, having injured a man inside, and then drove it to another nearby junction where he shot and badly injured a second soldier before he drove off. So I mean really Palestinian attacks with guns, knives, car rammings; they have continued to occur sporadically in the West Bank but really the frequency of such attacks has decreased a lot from back in 2015 and 2016 when there was a real series of them. But this in very worrying for the Israelis as they head towards the April 9th general election where the prime minister wants to run for his fifth term. He’s really brandishing his credentials as Israel’s Mr Security.”

As recently reported at the Times of Israel, Knell’s portrayal of “decreased” terror attacks since 2015/16 does not tell the whole story.

“…Israeli officials say that slightly more than 200 terror attacks were prevented in 2015, about 350 in 2016, roughly 400 in 2017, and almost 600 in 2018. So far in 2019, there have been almost 100 thwarted terror attacks — and these are only of the kind defined as severe: shootings, explosives, vehicle-rammings, and the like. In other words, terrorists are attempting to perpetrate more terror attacks each year, and their motivation remains high.”

Robinson continued with further reinforcement of that questionable framing.

Robinson: “I talked of increasing tensions ahead of those elections. There were rocket attacks on Tel Aviv from Gaza and retaliatory strikes on Gaza by the Israeli armed forces.”

Knell: “That’s right. Quite a lot of unusual things happening in Gaza in just the last few days. Last Thursday night, as Hamas leaders sat down with an Egyptian security delegation which has been trying to mediate a longer-term ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, there were two longer range rockets fired from Gaza at Tel Aviv. That’s something that has not been seen here since the 2014 full-scale armed conflict…ahm…between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. Then the Israel military responded with airstrikes on dozens of Hamas targets.”

Notably Knell failed to inform listeners that residents of communities close to the border with the Gaza Strip had also been targeted with several barrages of rocket fire overnight and the following morning. However we discover that – in contrast to her colleagues at the BBC News website – Yolande Knell was able to tell ‘Today’ listeners who is behind the weekly rioting along the border fence.

Knell: “There was then this insistence from Hamas and the Egyptians that the rocket fire was some kind of mistake and as Egypt tried to broker calm, Hamas called for the cancellation of its demonstrations along the boundary fence last Friday. That’s the first time that’s really happened since those protests began nearly a year ago.”

Knell moved on to another topic:

Knell: “The other thing that’s caught us somewhat by surprise…erm…is…several days of protests in Gaza by another group calling itself ‘We Want to Live’ and they’re really protesting – defying the tight control of the Hamas authorities – protesting about the rising cost of living and high taxes in Gaza. And that’s led to dozens of arrests, people being beaten up by the Hamas security forces including journalists and human rights workers.”

Failing to mention the reports of Hamas’ use of live fire against the demonstrators, Knell then rounded off her report with more dubious framing relating to the upcoming election.

Knell: “And Israeli commentators writing in the papers this morning that there’s kind of a paradox here. Normally Israel would be very pleased with the kind of public protest in Gaza, seeing it as proof that its closure policy in Gaza, which often says could lead to Hamas’ downfall, is working. But right now this is the kind of turmoil that will be more worrying for Israeli officials. It doesn’t want to see some kind of disintegration in Gaza – possibly even leading to another full-armed conflict – just ahead of those elections.”

Despite Knell’s use of the plural, one Israeli commentator wrote one piece in one newspaper claiming a “paradox” on that day. The paper is Ha’aretz and the commentator is Zvi Bar’el. This is what he wrote:

“The paradox is that under other circumstances, Israel would be pleased with the public protest in Gaza and see it as proof of the success of the closure policy, which it believes could lead to Hamas’ downfall. But the turmoil Hamas is experiencing worries Israel too. It needs a partner to take responsibility for running the Strip, stop a disintegration that could lead to a large-scale armed conflict on the eve of the election, and serve as an address for mediation. Suddenly it turns out that the confrontations at the fence are a marginal threat, if at all, compared to the risk of instability of the Hamas government.”

Leaving aside the fact that what Knell and her unnamed source describe as “closure policy” primarily came about because of Hamas’ terrorism against Israeli citizens, the BBC’s domestic audiences now know that their obligatory licence fee goes towards paying for Yolande Knell to sit in a Jerusalem studio and recite almost word for word selected passages from a publication read by less than 4% of the Israeli public which they could actually have found online for themselves.

Knell also used Bar’el’s commentary in a written report published later in the day on the BBC News website as we shall see in part two of this post.

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BBC R4 presenter floats ranking racism

Last month we documented one of many examples of BBC reporting on antisemitism in which an antisemitic statement was inaccurately and misleadingly described as “comments about Israel” and insufficient effort was made to explain why the statement was considered antisemitic. We observed at the time that:

“…as long as the BBC continues to report such stories while avoiding referencing the accepted definition of antisemitism, it cannot give its audiences an accurate and informative account of events.”

On March 12th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme witnessed another such example in the introduction to an item relating to US politics (from 2:51:23 here) by presenter Justin Webb. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Webb: “President Trump limps from crisis to crisis but his opponents, the Democrats, seem themselves to be in a mess. They won control of the House of Representatives last autumn and they sent some very high-profile new faces to Washington, among them the Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Well it hasn’t turned out though to be such plain sailing for her or the others. She is now accused of being antisemitic after she suggested that Jewish Americans have an allegiance to Israel.”

Leaving aside the fact that criticism of the comments made by Ilhan Omar in late February has focused on the antisemitic nature of the dual loyalty charge found in her statements rather than on the congresswoman herself and so Webb’s claim that “she is now accused of being antisemitic” does not reflect that criticism, no effort was made to explain to listeners that the claim that “Jewish Americans have an allegiance to Israel” – or as Omar actually put it “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country” – is categorised as a manifestation of antisemitism according to the IHRA working definition:

“Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”

Without that essential information, listeners would obviously not be in a position to understand this story fully. Webb continued:

Webb: “And that has prompted some very deep soul-searching as the party works out how it’s going to get rid of President Trump in the presidential elections. I’ve been hearing from the Democratic supporting polling expert John Zogby.”

After Zogby had spoken about “the demographic battle within the party between an old guard versus a new group of Young Turks that represent really millennials and Generation Z”, Justin Webb came up with the following bizarre question.

Webb: “The party’s having a big row about antisemitism and it’s fair to say to the surprise, I think, of some Democrats who really thought it wasn’t going to be the issue that it is. If…if the party decided to say to its supporters ‘look, we think that antisemitism is a bit like the way some of our people might regard anti-white racism; that actually it’s a different order of racism, it’s not as important, it’s still bad but it’s not as important as some other forms of racism’, what impact do you think that would have?”

We have been unable to find any evidence of such a suggestion having been put forward by the Democratic party (and indeed Zogby’s response was “you won’t see it happen”) so why Webb found it appropriate to float the grotesque notion of more important and less important types of racism is unclear.

Unsurprisingly, Webb failed to challenge Zogby when he came up with the inadequately explained claim that some people within the Democratic party are confusing antisemitism with “opposition to Israeli policies”.

Zogby: “By the same token to confuse antisemitism with Israeli policies and opposition to Israeli policies is a very difficult road to go down and by some establishment figures within the Democratic party, we saw how dangerous that gets. And that is one of the key points within this demographic revolution. Younger people let’s just say don’t have the automatic admiration for Israel. They know a post-intifada Israel and they know Israel as a foreign country.”

Webb went on to ask Zogby what would happen “if the Democratic party moved in the direction of being much more critical of Israel than it has been in the past, never mind the antisemitism issue”. Zogby replied that while some Jewish voters “would move away”, the numbers could be “more than made up…by energising millennials and energising non-whites”.

After a final question concerning the presidential election, Webb closed the item.

Following the broadcast the Jewish Chronicle contacted the BBC for comment and was told that “Justin is the first to admit he should have phrased his question better”. Apparently a BBC representative also said that “Mr Webb accepted the question needed to be better phrased because “the audience will not have been as familiar with the state of American politics as he and John Zogby are””. 

For years we have watched the BBC fail to provide the accurate and impartial reporting which would help its audiences understand antisemitism related stories in the UK. As we see, that serial failure is now being replicated in stories relating to US politics – not least because the BBC still does not work according to the accepted definition of antisemitism and because BBC staff too often appear to have forgotten that it is their job to inform audiences rather than subject them to esoteric insider chats that show off their own ‘familiarity’ with a topic. 

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Whitewashing Hizballah on BBC Radio 4

The March 9th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item by Mishal Husain who is currently in Lebanon for a special broadcast from that country on March 11th to mark eight years since the beginning of the uprising in Syria.

Although the report (from 35:20 here) was introduced by both co-presenter Martha Kearney and Mishal Husain as being connected to the topic of “the war in Syria” and UK aid to Syrians displaced by that conflict, its focus soon shifted to a different topic.

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

Husain: “The UK’s just pledged an extra £100 million for Syrians in need and the Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt has told me host countries like Lebanon need ongoing support too. He came to Beirut straight after the government’s decision to ban the political wing of Hizballah – an organisation that’s had elected MPs in the Lebanese parliament for years. It’s part of the current government, controlling three ministries. I’ve been speaking to Amal Saad, professor of political science at the Lebanese University and the author of a book on Hizballah.”

As we see, that introduction (notable for Husain’s promotion of the entirely false notion of separate ‘wings’ of Hizballah) was no more helpful in aiding listeners to understand that they were about to hear from a Hizballah supporter than were the introductions heard by audiences on previous occasions when the BBC brought in Amal Saad for comment.

Listeners also received no information which would help them understand that when Hizballah and its supporters speak of ‘resistance’ against Israel, they in fact mean the destruction of that state.

Saad: “It’s first and foremost priority is resisting Israel and now fighting jihadis.”

Husain: “How entrenched is it in Lebanese politics, in Lebanese society today?”

Saad: “For the past 15 years or so Hizballah has been deeply entrenched in the Lebanese state: in the civil service, also in municipalities – across the board basically. And of course there is also the military and security cooperation that Hizballah has with the Lebanese army and with Lebanon’s security services.”

Listeners heard no mention of the fact that the 2006 UN Security Council resolution 1701 stated that there should be “no authority other than that of the Government of Lebanon” and that previous accords pertaining to “the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State” should be implemented. Predictably, neither Husain nor her interviewee bothered to inform listeners that Hizballah is funded and supplied with weapons (also in violation of that UN resolution) by a foreign power.

Husain went on to once again promote the chimera of different ‘wings’ of the terror group.

Husain: “The UK says it can no longer make a distinction between the military and the political wing of Hizballah. Is it a false distinction to make?”

Saad: “I think it was an artificial one and it was a politically expedient one to facilitate dialogue and cooperation with Hizballah in Lebanon. In fact Hizballah is not a party with a military wing. It’s a resistance army and it has a political wing.”

Husain: “And that has meant fighting on the same side as President Assad in Syria and it’s been linked to the Houthi fighters backed by Iran in Yemen. One assumes that that is what the UK means when it says it’s destabilising the Middle East.”

The BBC’s domestic audiences then heard the claim that their own government’s policies are dictated by foreign interests.

Saad: “The British focused a lot on its role in Syria in the parliamentary report. The main argument was about Hizballah’s destabilising role in the region with emphasis on Syria. There was very little about actual terrorist incidents anywhere in the world. The UK is very troubled by Hizballah’s role in the region in the sense that it conflicts with US interests in the region. I think that’s the real problem.”

Despite having been told that Hizballah is a militia, Husain persisted in labelling it as a political organisation:

Husain: “But it is a party which has a history in what you call the resistance to Israel. It’s been responsible in the past for bombings, there were tunnels that have been dug into Israel. You look at all of that and around and then perhaps people say well, this is a valid decision for the UK to have taken.”

Saad: “This is part and parcel of an open war between Hizballah and Israel. There’s a balance of deterrence between the two. Even if we were talking about any transgressions that the UK has decided Hizballah has made, you know, they could try Hizballah for war crimes if they like. But that’s not the same thing as terrorism.”

That part of the item closed with that whitewashing of Hizballah’s terror activities and with no mention of UNSC resolution 1701 or Iran’s role as Hizballah’s mentor and supplier and no explanation of what the euphemism ‘resistance’ really means.

Despite having been told by Amal Saad in very plain terms that the notion of separate wings of Hizballah is “artificial”, Husain then went on to press her point (from 38:35) with Alistair Burt.

Husain: “We did make that distinction for more than a decade. So what has changed?”

Husain: “Last year a minister said that there wasn’t the evidence to proscribe the political wing of Hizballah. What changed between last year and this year?”

And when Burt mentioned the annual ‘Quds Day’ marches in the UK, Husain interrupted him with the following flippant remark:

Husain: “You made this decision on the basis of flags at a demonstration?”

Clearly this item, with comment coming from a Hizballah supporter and numerous grave omissions, comes nowhere near to providing licence fee paying listeners with the “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards” that is supposed to improve their ability to understand their own government’s decision to proscribe Hizballah.

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