BBC’s ME correspondents revert to partisan terminology for Temple Mount – part two

As recorded in part one of this post, politically partisan terminology – that contradicts the BBC’s style guide and was first seen in BBC content in early November 2014 following the issue of a PLO ‘advisory’ document to members of the foreign media – recently reappeared in reports by the corporation’s Jerusalem bureau correspondent Yolande Knell.

Just hours after Knell told listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on July 21st that the day’s rioting in Jerusalem and elsewhere was caused by the fact that Israel had placed metal detectors “at the entrance to the al Aqsa mosque compound“, a later edition of the same programme included a report on the same story from her colleague in Jerusalem, Tom Bateman.

The item (from 26:36 here) was introduced by presenter Rebecca Kesby – who either had no idea why the orchestrated violence took place or was deliberately promoting the false narrative that it was prompted by the age restrictions on access to Temple Mount that were in fact implemented after – and because of – the calls from Palestinian leaders for a ‘Day of Rage’.

Kesby: “…clashes in Jerusalem today over restricted access to religious sites. Palestinians are angry that many have been prevented from praying at the al Aqsa mosque. Many protested. Well let’s get the background to all of this now from the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.

Bateman: “Well I was down at the Old City just outside the ancient walls of Jerusalem when prayers were taking place after midday. Now this part of the Old City is where the compound is…the al Aqsa mosque is to be found. It’s the same site that Jews refer to as Temple Mount; the most revered site in Jerusalem.”

Notably, Bateman’s description of “the al Aqsa mosque” as being “the same site” as Temple Mount conforms to that 2014 PLO ‘media guidance’:

“In addition to promoting its preferred terminology “al Aqsa Mosque compound”, the PLO document from November 5th also states:

“Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, sometimes referred to as the Noble Sanctuary (“Haram al-Sharif” in Arabic), is the compound that contains Al Aqsa building itself, ablution fountains, open spaces for prayer, monuments and the Dome of the Rock building. This entire area enclosed by the walls which spans 144 dunums [sic] (almost 36 acres), forms the Mosque.” [emphasis added]”

Bateman went on: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Bateman: “And normally you would see thousands of Muslims heading into the al Aqsa mosque compound. Now people were praying in their hundreds on the streets outside of the Old City walls and as we arrived there – many people had turned up – the police were blocking the road. They were preventing men under the age of 50 from going past those roadblocks. This was all after the killing last week of two Israeli police guards at the compound there. And the Israeli authorities have said that this was to do with maintaining security at the site – having the metal detectors there and the measures today to ban men under 50 – which they said were temporary. But all of this has created a real amount of anger among Palestinians, among Muslim religious leaders who called for this day of protest today.”

As we see, Bateman downgraded the ‘Day of Rage’ that was actually declared to a “day of protest” and failed to inform listeners that the attack on July 14th was an act of terrorism. He continued – giving an eye-witness account that notably erases the actions of the rioters:

Bateman: “Now before and after prayers took place there were some pretty angry confrontations. We saw stun grenades being fired. We saw people running from police officers on horseback. And shortly after that the tensions then spread to other parts of the city – to neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem – and in the last few hours the Palestinian Red Crescent has said that three people have been killed. They say there are 391 people hurt and they say nearly a hundred of those serious enough for people to have to have been taken to hospital.”

Kesby: “And as you say there, lots of complaints from the Palestinian side that the security forces have been heavy-handed. Is it your understanding that these measures in place at the moment after those deaths last week are temporary or could this be something that we see continuing?”

Bateman: “Well I think the Israeli authorities certainly were saying that the measures about preventing men under 50 from entering the site are temporary. As for the metal detectors at the site, well the police have said that weapons were smuggled into the compound before those three Arab Israelis carried out that attack last week. Now the point is that Palestinians – for whom the al Aqsa mosque is a crucially important site, not just to their faith but to their identity as well – that they fear that this may signal some kind of change; an assertion… a further assertion of Israeli control at the site there. And as international leaders appeal for calm in all this, I think that everybody realises and understands that tensions surrounding the al Aqsa mosque do have the potential to escalate.”

Notably, Bateman qualified his statement on the smuggling of firearms into al Aqsa mosque prior to the July 14th terror attack with the phrase “police have said” – despite the existence of video evidence. He then amplified Palestinian ‘fears’ without clarifying to listeners that they are baseless and without informing them that under the terms of the existing arrangements, Israel is responsible for security at the site.

As we see, although Tom Bateman has only been based in Jerusalem for a couple of months, he has already ditched the BBC Academy style guide’s instruction on the correct terminology to be used when reporting on Temple Mount and – like his more veteran colleague Yolande Knell – has compromised BBC impartiality by adopting partisan language that endorses the political agenda of one side to a complex conflict.

Related Articles:

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BBC’s ME correspondents revert to partisan terminology for Temple Mount – part one

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ picks up the baton of BDS campaign amplification

The July 19th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included yet another report concerning the BDS campaign’s failed crusade against a performance by Radiohead in Israel.

The programme’s synopsis provides BBC audiences with inaccurate information:

“… why a performance by the band Radiohead in the Israeli capital Tel Aviv has become controversial.” [emphasis added]

Presenter Rebecca Kesby introduced the item (from 38:54 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

“Now one of the world’s biggest bands, Radiohead, have [sic] been playing to thousands of fans tonight in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv but the concert has been controversial. Earlier this year an open letter signed by more than 40 public figures urged the band to pull out and instead join a boycott against what it said was the Israeli government’s denial of freedom to Palestinians. About an hour or so ago we spoke to the BBC’s Tom Bateman at the concert – he assessed the mood.”

In fact, many of those who signed that letter are hardly household names but Bateman likewise promoted that chimera.  

Bateman: “[…] The controversy behind this gig began with a campaign calling for a boycott against Israel: the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, or BDS. […] …but their [Radiohead] latest journey to Tel Aviv has been marked instead by recriminations. The open letter to the band in April asking them not to play in Israel was signed by more than 40 public figures including South African archbishop Desmond Tutu, the film director Ken Loach and the Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters. It accused Radiohead – a band it noted had campaigned for Tibetan freedom – of failing to stand up for Palestinians under occupation. Such was the pressure on Radiohead in the midst of its world tour. One Tweet from Ken Loach said the band must decide whether to stand with the oppressed or the oppressor.”

As usual, the BBC made no effort to either unpack the BDS campaign’s propaganda slogans or to explain to audiences exactly what that campaign is really all about. Bateman ostensibly ticked the ‘impartiality’ box by including a pre-qualified eighteen-word comment from an Israeli in an item which was otherwise dedicated entirely to promotion of BDS campaign PR messaging.

Bateman: “The Israeli columnist Ben Dror Yemini has long campaigned against what he calls a movement of elites, believing it denies Israel a right to exist and disempowers moderates on both sides.”

Yemini: “I want the elites in London, in Europe, in the United States to be in favour of reconciliation.”

He then went on to tell a sorry tale of “Israeli controls over travel for Palestinians” without clarifying that the orchestra concerned has, according to its own website, “performed in Palestine, Germany, France, Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon, Greece and Italy” and just last year went on tour in the UK.

Bateman: “The soundtrack changes in Ramallah in the West Bank and the perspective is different. Zeina Khoury runs the Palestine Youth Orchestra and supports the boycott campaign. […]… she spoke to me about a tour planned for the autumn. She says Israeli controls over travel for Palestinians mean she can’t fully assemble the musicians in Jerusalem or bring people from elsewhere in the Middle East to the West Bank.”

Khoury: “Every year that we apply for these permits they get denied or they just…they don’t give us an answer – the Israelis. So we’re never able to have a full orchestra in Palestine. But in this festival in Israel Radiohead can just come in through the airport and it’s so easy for them. So they don’t get the point that it’s not the same case. It’s not the same thing for Palestinian musicians, Arab musicians or any festival in Palestine.”

Bateman: “Well the Radiohead singer Thom Yorke has described the public call on them to avoid Israel as, he says, upsetting, divisive and a waste of energy. He’s been pretty emphatic that the band understand [sic] the issues, that they don’t support Israel’s government, he says, but they still choose to play here. It is far from the first call by the boycott campaign that has divided opinion. Tonight, as you can probably hear, the music goes on. It will leave a debate that is far from concluded.”

Yet again we see that the BBC is regularly providing a consistently unchallenged PR platform for the BDS campaign, thereby mainstreaming a crusade aimed at delegitimising Israel and eliminating Jewish self-determination – but without providing audiences with the full range of information that would enable them to make up their own minds on the issue.

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BBC coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack – part two: BBC radio

Several hours after the terror attack at Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem on the morning of July 14th in which police officers Haiel Sitawe and Kamil Shnaan were murdered and two others wounded, the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ aired a report (from 19:18 here) on that story that was introduced by Julian Marshall as follows:

“And we go now to Israel where two Israeli police officers have died after three Israeli Arab gunmen opened fire on them in Jerusalem’s old city. Police chased the attackers into one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites – known to Jews as Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al Sharif. All three attackers were killed.”

As was the case in the BBC’s written report on the same incident, that description does not adequately clarify that the terrorists had been on Temple Mount for an unknown period of time before the attack – and had even posted photographs of themselves there on social media – or that, as the Times of Israel reports, they returned to that site – with the police in pursuit – after carrying out the attack.

Marshall continued:

“The mosque complex at al Aqsa has been closed and evacuated and Friday prayers there have been cancelled for only the second time in 50 years. The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the attack in a telephone call with the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But Israel’s minister of public security, Gilad Erdan, said the Palestinian leadership should be held responsible.”

Listeners then heard a recording of Erdan speaking which included the only mentions of the words terror and terrorists in the entire report.

“The terrorists they used firearms inside the Temple Mount violating, violating the holiness of this important place. I say and repeat again and again: Israel has kept the status quo on Temple Mount and continue to keep the status quo here. We always respected the freedom of worship to everyone – Muslims, Jews, Christians – but we all should understand that the incitement that was led by President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority directly led to this terror attack that happened this morning.”

Marshall: “Well let’s go live now to Jerusalem and the BBC’s Tom Bateman. So what actually happened in this incident, Tom?”

Although several hours had already passed since the incident took place and the sequence of events was by that time clear, Tom Bateman had apparently not been keeping up with events. [emphasis added]

“Well this happened at 7 o’clock this morning local time. You’ll remember that this is in the vicinity of the most revered site in Jerusalem; holy to both Jews and to Muslims. Now the exact location of this attack has remained still a bit unclear but what we know is that they were close to the Lions’ Gate entrance beside that compound. And the police say they were armed with an automatic weapon, a pistol – there was a knife involved too – and that they opened fire on police officers. Now there was then a chase of some sort and some mobile phone footage has shown that at least one of the attackers was chased by police officers and shot.”

In fact the terrorists had two automatic weapons and Bateman similarly failed to clarify that the terrorists were on Temple Mount before they launched the attack or that they intentionally returned there afterwards. He continued:

“Now as a result of the initial fire by the attackers two police officers were fatally wounded. Ah…they were Israeli police officers. They were Druze – an Arab minority religion in Israel – and the attackers themselves were Israeli Arabs. They were from a town in the north of Israel and had Israeli ID and the domestic security services said that they were not aware of these men beforehand.”

Given the failure by both Marshall and Bateman to provide listeners with the full sequence of events, listeners would be unable to understand the context to their next topic of discussion.

Marshall: “And I would imagine tensions heightened by that decision to close the mosque complex at al Aqsa.”

Bateman: “Yeah, that’s right. As you said that is a highly, highly unusual move. There have been closures in the past for short periods of time when there have been incidents but for the police to say they’re closing it and that prayers not take place is significant. And in response, as you’ve heard, there has been much criticism from Palestinians. There have been prayers taking place outside the compound itself this afternoon. Obviously there a scene of heightened tension.”

Bateman did not clarify to listeners that those “prayers […] outside the compound” were not coincidental.

“The Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hussein, told Maan News that he was prevented from going to site. “”We are determined to reach the Al-Aqsa Mosque and to hold all prayers in it,” he said. He called on Palestinians to come to Jerusalem or to head to the checkpoints near Jerusalem to protest the cancellation of prayers.

Hundreds of Muslims gathered outside the walls of the Old City, behind hastily set up police cordons, to pray and protest the actions of the Israeli police.

Israeli Arabs and Palestinians spread the message using social media. Using the hashtag #Go_and_pray_at_alAqsa, they called for the faithful to come to the mosque.

The Director of the Mosque, Sheikh Ahmed Omar al-Kiswani, in a video shared on social media, said Israel was “taking advantage of what happened” at the Temple Mount “to impose a new reality on the ground.”

As we saw in part one of this post, the BBC News website was able to report that the closure of Temple Mount after the terror attack was necessary to allow the police to carry out their investigation – just as British police closed areas of London on two occasions following terror attacks there earlier this year – and not just some arbitrary move by the Israeli authorities. The fact that Tom Bateman failed to clarify that point in this report is therefore all the more remarkable and that failure was repeated later on the same day when Bateman gave another report to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM‘.

Following a news bulletin in which listeners were told that “two Israeli police officers have been killed in Jerusalem’s Old City by Israeli Arab gunmen who were then shot dead”, presenter Eddie Mair introduced Bateman (from 14:32 here) “live from Jerusalem”.

Bateman: “Eddie, the ancient walls of Jerusalem encircle this city’s most revered site. From where the golden Dome of the Rock rises over the Old City’s narrow streets is the third holiest mosque in Islam; al Aqsa. For Jews the site is the abode of God’s presence where the first and second Temples once stood. The Old City, heavily guarded, is also one of the most acute flash points in this decades-old conflict and it was not long after dawn that police say three men armed with an automatic rifle, a pistol and a knife attacked Israeli police officers at one of the gates to the site.

Mobile phone footage showed a rapid exchange of fire as one of the assailants was chased within the compound before falling to the ground. The attack killed two Israeli police officers. They were Druze – a minority Arab religion in Israel –whilst officials said the attackers were Arab Israeli citizens from a town in the north of the country and were not known to the security services. Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan spoke from the scene.”

Listeners then heard an edited version of the statements from Erdan aired in Bateman’s earlier report – and with it the sole mention of the word terrorists in this item too.

“The terrorists they used firearms inside the Temple Mount violating, violating the holiness of this important place. I say and repeat again and again: Israel has kept the status quo on Temple Mount. We always respected the freedom of worship to everyone – Muslims, Jews, Christians.”

As we see, Radio 4 listeners were also not provided with a full picture of the sequence of events including the fact that the terrorists were on Temple Mount – apparently with their weapons – before they launched their attack and that they returned there afterwards. Like World Service audiences, listeners to Radio 4 would therefore be unable to appreciate the context to the next part of Bateman’s report.

Bateman: “After the shooting police began a search of the site and sealed it off. Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque are usually attended by thousands of Muslims but the closure prevented that: a highly unusual decision by the Israeli authorities. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the preacher at the mosque, was defiant saying no force on earth could prevent prayers there. Instead though, they took place outside the compound amid signs of growing tension and angry scuffles at another of the Old City’s gates. Adnan Husseini – the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem – criticised the closure.”

Listeners were not told of Husseini’s record of inflammatory statements before they heard his comments.

Husseini: “This is the first time that they announce the prayer will not take place; the Friday prayer. And this has never happened before and I think this is very dangerous. They have to use their mind, you know, when they declare such things. This moment is very sensitive moment. We have to go to pray.”

Erasing all pre-1967 Jerusalem history in typical BBC fashion, Bateman continued:

Bateman: “The Old City is within East Jerusalem which was annexed by Israel after the 1967 war – a move not recognized by the international community. Israel’s government said today’s incident crossed red lines. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas – under pressure in the past from Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to condemn such attacks – did just that during a phone call between the pair but also said that closing down the area could have repercussions. Since the autumn of 2015 there have been a wave of attacks involving knives, guns and car rammings which had decreased in frequency but had not stopped. Today’s shootings in Jerusalem have already led to concerns about a fresh escalation in tensions.”

It is of course highly doubtful that the BBC would find it appropriate to provide a platform to people in a European country who used veiled threats to demand access to the scene of a terror attack just hours after it had taken place and while the police were still carrying out investigations. However, as we see in these two reports, for Tom Bateman the focus of this story is exactly those people rather than the incident itself, which he fails to explain in a manner which would enable audiences to understand why such the highly unusual action of closing Temple Mount had to be taken.

Related Articles:

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BBC coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack – part one: BBC News website

 

BBC ME correspondent: Jewish history in Hebron is a ‘view’

BBC reporting on last week’s UNESCO resolution concerning the old city of Hebron – including the Tomb of the Patriarchs – has consistently failed to adequately clarify to audiences both the real reasons for Israel’s objections to the motion as well as the fact that the professional body assessing the proposal submitted by the Palestinian delegation did not recommend its adoption and criticised it for ignoring Jewish and Christian heritage in the city, “even though extensive remains testify to these links”.

Superficial BBC WS report on PA’s latest UNESCO stunt ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio, 2/7/17

BBC erases the real story in report on UNESCO’s Hebron resolution BBC News website, 7/7/17

The missing word in BBC R4 reporting on UNESCO Hebron resolution ‘The World Tonight’, BBC Radio 4, 7/7/17

An additional report concerning that story was broadcast (from 30:07 here) on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on July 7th. In his introduction to that item, presenter James Coomarasamy once again failed to clarify to listeners in the BBC’s own words that Israel’s objections are actually rooted in UNESCO’s declaration of the old city of Hebron a ‘Palestinian’ site – and the consequent erasure of its Jewish history and heritage – rather than in any objection to conservation per se. 

Coomarasamy: “Israel has denounced a decision by UNESCO to declare the old city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank a protected world heritage site. The resolution passed by a committee of the UN’s cultural agency also put it on a list of sites considered to be in danger. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a delusional decision.”

Listeners next heard a voice-over translation of the Israeli prime minister speaking in Hebrew.

“This time they have determined that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is a Palestinian site – in other words, not Jewish – and that the site is endangered. Not a Jewish site? Who’s buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah: our forefathers and mothers. And that this is in danger? Only where Israel is present like in Hebron is freedom of worship ensured for everybody. Throughout the Middle East mosques, churches and synagogues are being blown up. Places where Israel is not present. So we will continue to guard the Cave of the Patriarchs to ensure religious freedom for everybody and we will continue also to guard the truth.”

Coomarasamy then told listeners that they were about to hear information concerning “the history” behind the story.

“So what is the history behind the Israeli prime minister’s clear annoyance at this decision? Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman is in Jerusalem.”

The history of the Tomb of the Patriarchs is of course well documented, with Abraham’s purchase of the site appearing in the Book of Genesis. While one can of course choose to believe that biblical story or not, what is not disputed is that the site was of such importance to Jews that Herod built a structure over the burial caves that is described by UNESCO’s professional team as having been “built in the 1st century BCE” – i.e. hundreds of years before the Islamic conquest of the region.

However, instead of providing audiences with a factual account of the site’s history, Tom Bateman preferred to give a narrative based portrayal of the story that cites ‘views’ – with views of course by definition being open to question and debate. [emphasis added]

Bateman: “Well he’s upset because Hebron, which is in the occupied West Bank, in his view and in the view of many Israelis has a connection to Judaism that goes back thousands of years. And the Cave of the Patriarchs that he talked about there, whilst the site itself is revered by all three of the monotheistic religions, to Judaism it is the burial-place of Abraham. Ah…and so it is his view that what’s happened here is that the Palestinian delegation has gone to UNESCO and has effectively used it for a politically motivated decision to try and enshrine Palestinian sovereignty over the entire city. Now for the Palestinians the view is rather different. It is that they believe that the site is endangered because of what they see as threats from occupation, from the Jewish settlements that are there in those…right in the centre of the old city and so they have for some time now been pushing for this vote and it went their way at UNESCO in Krakow at the meeting by 12 votes to 3.”

Bateman also refrained from providing audiences with any information concerning the history of the Jewish community in Hebron up to the 20th century or the more recent history – the Hebron Protocol – that would help listeners understand that there are “Jewish settlements …right in the centre of the old city” because the Palestinians agreed to that arrangement twenty years ago. He did however find it important to describe “pretty chaotic scenes” at the UNESCO vote before Coomarasamy made a vague reference to some more history: that of the Palestinian delegation’s repeated exploitation of the UN’s cultural forum for the denial of Jewish history and delegitimisation of Israel.

Coomarasamy: “And Israel’s going to reduce its funding to the UN; as you say there’ve been a number of decisions by the UN that Israel is unhappy about. This is just going to make, I guess, that relationship even worse.”

Bateman: “Yeah that’s right. I mean we’ve heard Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu say repeatedly that parts of the UN, and particularly UNESCO, are biased against Israel; they’re politically motivated, they’re in hock to Israel’s adversaries. And when he said – as we heard in the clip there – that this was delusional yet again by UNESCO after a vote that they felt severed Judaism’s historic ties to Jerusalem itself – to the Western Wall – ah…earlier this year, so he has said after this vote that he’s gonna withdraw another million dollars of funding to the United Nations and instead, he says, he will put that money into a heritage museum in Hebron.”

Like the rest of the BBC’s coverage of this story, Bateman’s equivocal ‘he said-she said’ account and his refusal to even provide historical facts without introducing false equivalence and ‘narratives’ obviously does not meet the corporation’s mission of providing “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”.

 

 

BBC’s Bateman shoehorns anti-Israel NGO into hi-tech story

Despite the BBC’s regularly displayed interest in Israel’s national intelligence agency, its pronunciation unit has apparently still not got round to explaining to presenters how to say the word ‘Mossad’ properly or that it should be preceded by the definite article – as was evident once again in an item broadcast in the July 9th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘.

Presenter Julian Marshall introduced the item (from 37:51 here) with a typical mispronunciation of the name of its subject matter.

“The Israeli spy agency Mossad has launched a multi-million dollar fund to invest in the country’s hi-tech sector. It wants access to new technologies at their earliest stage of development; everything from miniature robotics to software that predicts people’s online behaviour. Collaboration between intelligence agencies and industry is common in many countries but rarely is it advertised this openly. From Jerusalem, our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Tom Bateman opened his report on that story with a clip from the soundtrack of a promotional video and the curious claim that the hi-tech sector in Israel is “new”.

Bateman: “Its reputation may be formidable, its work shadowy but now – a publicity drive from Mossad. The video for the agency’s investment fund borrows heavily from Bourne or Bond films but it’s not popcorn eating audiences they want. The ad featuring a cocktail drinking spy appeals to Israeli hi-tech firms.

Well we’ve come to a neighbourhood of Tel Aviv. The car workshops here are graffitied, the old diamond polishing businesses gone. These days this is the heart of a new Israeli industry – hi-tech. Israel boasts more start-up firms per head than virtually any other country and Mossad has its eyes on the tech they develop; everything from miniature robotics to high-speed encryption to machine learning.”

Bateman then interviewed a person from a software company that has no connection to the story itself before going on:

Bateman: “The Mossad investment launch saw the head of the agency, Yossi Cohen, appeal for firms to step forward. He said the fund would help fulfil Mossad’s national mission, allowing freedom of action for visionary entrepreneurs. His call follows a growing trend by surveillance agencies to invest in emerging IT but its publicity has perhaps been the most bold. The CIA puts cash into Silicone Valley start-ups through an intermediary called In-Q-Tel while Britain’s eaves-dropping agency GCHQ has announced grants to work with cyber-security firms in the UK.”

Having spoken to a second interviewee who also has no direct link to his subject matter, Bateman then proceeded to politicise the story.

Bateman: “But spies with technology have proved controversial in the past. The leaks by the former US intelligence worker Edward Snowdon inflicted PR damage on big web-based firms. In Israel the military has previously fended off accusations from veterans of an elite army intelligence unit who claimed information was used for what they called the political persecution of Palestinians.”

Bateman was of course referring to allegations made in 2014 by a small group of politically motivated reservists from the 8200 unit but – like the BBC’s report at the time – did not bother to tell listeners the whole story

He then brought in his final interviewee, who has even less to do with the story ostensibly being reported in this item than the previous two.

Bateman: “Omar Shakir, the Israel-Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, is sceptical about such tie-ups between companies and security agencies.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is of course one of the political NGOs consistently most quoted and promoted by the BBC but, in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, Bateman failed to inform listeners of that group’s political agenda, of its long record of anti-Israel campaigning or of Omar Shakir’s own personal history as a BDS activist.

Shakir: “It raises significant concern. I mean on one hand governments are regularly involved and often have been the engine for technological growth in many parts of the world but on the other hand it further raises concern around facilitating rights abuses and you worry about the lack of transparency, especially in a system where there is rampant impunity for abuse. And you worry again about practices that occur in the shadows – without oversight, without accountability.”

And so, although this new initiative from the Mossad has not yet even got off the ground, the BBC has already signposted theoretical “rights abuses” to its audiences and provided a platform for amplification of HRW’s entirely unsubstantiated allegations of “rampant impunity for abuse” without any Israeli official being given the right of reply.

Once again we see a BBC correspondent exploiting a news story for opportunistic leveraging of politicised messaging concerning Israel from an interested party touted as a ‘human rights defender’ without the required full disclosure to audiences of that political NGO’s agenda and anti-Israel activities.  

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The missing word in BBC R4 reporting on UNESCO Hebron resolution

h/t DS

On the evening of July 7th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ heard extensive coverage of that day’s UNESCO resolution declaring the old city of Hebron an endangered ‘Palestinian’ world heritage site – but with one word critical for audience understanding of the story repeatedly omitted.

The programme’s synopsis reads: [emphasis in bold added]

“Israel has strongly criticised UNESCO’s declaration that Hebron is a World Heritage site.”

Presenter Razia Iqbal gave listeners the headlines at the start of the programme (from 00:40), including:

“Israel has strongly criticised a UN decision to declare Hebron a world heritage site. We’ll get the Palestinian response.”

Listeners then heard what it later became apparent was an edited and spliced statement from Manuel Hassassian:

“I’m not only pleased but I’m thrilled that UNESCO is preserving the culture and the identity of the Palestinian people in Hebron.”

The programme continued with a news bulletin read by Charles Caroll in which (at 05:32) listeners heard the following:

“The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned the decision of the UN cultural body to declare the old city of Hebron a protected world heritage site. He called it delusional. Palestinian diplomats had urged UNESCO to fast-track the site’s addition to the list of world heritage sites in danger. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman has more details.”

Bateman: “There were heated scenes during the meeting of the UN’s cultural body in Krakow as delegates asked security to remove the Israeli ambassador who’d confronted the chair on the platform. The vote, which followed a submission from the Palestinian delegation, designated the old city of Hebron an endangered world heritage site. The city is holy to all three monotheistic faiths. Rising from its ancient centre is the imposing site known to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs, to Muslims as the Ibrahimi mosque. The city is also one of the West Bank’s most acute flash points. Several hundred Jewish settlers live in the centre, surrounded by 200,000 Palestinians.”

In other words, in the first six and a half minutes of this programme listeners heard three portrayals of the story, all of which omitted any mention of the highly relevant fact that Israel’s objections are actually rooted in UNESCO’s declaration of the old city of Hebron a ‘Palestinian’ site – and the consequent erasure of its Jewish history and heritage – rather than in any objection to conservation per se. 

The same story was the topic of a long item broadcast later on in the programme (from 30:12) and Razia Iqbal’s introduction to that item likewise failed to inform listeners of the real reason for the controversy. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Iqbal: “The ancient city of Hebron is significant for all three monotheistic faiths and it’s often been a contested city. Today it finds itself at the centre of controversy because the UN’s cultural agency has voted to declare the old city of Hebron, which is in the West Bank, as a protected world heritage site. The Palestinians had urged UNESCO to fast-track the process, alleging that Israel was carrying out a number of violations in Hebron where a small community of Jewish settlers lives in the middle of more than 200,000 Palestinians. Israel was deeply opposed to the move and its prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned UNESCO’s decision as delusional.”

Listeners then heard a voice-over translation of the Israeli prime minister’s statement in Hebrew.

“This time they have determined that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is a Palestinian site – in other words, not Jewish – and that the site is endangered. Not a Jewish site? Who’s buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah: our forefathers and mothers. And that this is in danger? Only where Israel is present like in Hebron is freedom of worship guaranteed for everybody.”

Iqbal next introduced an interviewee who appeared days before in a BBC World Service item relating to the same topic and like her colleague, she too presented him as a “tour guide”, failing to inform audiences of the fact that he is an activist in a ‘peacemaking’ group registered in the US.

Iqbal: “The words of the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Elihau McLean is a Jerusalem based tour guide who runs what are described as dual narrative tourist visits to Hebron. He’s been telling me why Hebron is such a…so historically significant.”

McLean: “Hebron is one of the oldest cities in the world. We understand it to be the second oldest city in the holy land after Jericho. Hebron is at least 4,000 years old. There’s an archaeological site in a hilltop called Tel Rumeida or Tel Hebron that dates back to the early Bronze Age about 4,500 years ago and that’s the site of the biblical city of Hebron that’s mentioned in the Bible. That’s also where King David established his kingdom – the kingdom of Judea – over 2,500 years ago. There’s ancient history in Hebron.”

Iqbal: “And it’s significant and important to Jews as well as Muslims and Christians.”

McLean: “That’s right. It’s…first of all Jews have four holy cities in the world. The first holiest city is Jerusalem and our second holiest city is Hebron. Muslims have four holy cities; Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem and Muslims consider Hebron their fourth holiest city after Jerusalem. So it’s holy to Jews and Muslims, certainly, as well as Christians.”

Iqbal: “And politically, how is it currently divided between the Palestinians and Israeli ownership?”

McLean: “So Bill Clinton invited Yasser Arafat and Benjamin Netanyahu in 1997 to a small river in the state of Maryland called Wye River and they negotiated the Hebron Accords where Israel agreed to withdraw from 80% of the city and hand it over to Palestinian Authority control. That 80% is called the letter H one – Hebron 1. H2 – 20% of the city – where 30,000 Palestinians live and about 1,000 Israeli Jews live in that 20%. It’s called H2 and that is the heart of the old city where the Tomb of the Patriarchs is, the Kasbah – the old Arab market. So that’s where most of the tension is; in the old city and in the middle of a region called H2 under Israeli control.”

Iqbal: “What’s your view today in the context of what you do – but also just generally – that UNESCO has declared the old city that you’re talking about as a protected world heritage site? What do you make of that?”

McLean: “I run weekly dual narrative tours and we bring the tourists to Hebron. We have a Palestinian partner organisation so they get a Palestinian tour guide to hear the Palestinian narrative and then they hear the Israeli narrative. So they hear Palestinian speakers, they get to meet soldiers, they get to meet settlers, they get to meet and hear all voices. Our tour is the only nuanced tour of Hebron. With that in mind, I would say that it’s…I feel it’s a bit absurd the UNESCO decision. From what I understand it acknowledges the old city of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs specifically and exclusively as Islamic heritage sites which is a bit absurd considering the Tomb of the Patriarchs is the foundation of Jewish history. It’s the longest standing holy site of Judaism – even more than the Temple itself. That building was never destroyed. It was built by King Herod two thousand years ago: hundreds and hundreds of years even before the arrival of Islam. So how can…even from an Islamic or historical or archaeological point of view… anyone who understands biblical history understands that this is an ancient heritage site. And then it was a church and then it was a mosque. So if we can acknowledge that all three faiths are connected there, I think UNESCO would have a lot more credibility.”

Iqbal: “That was Eliyahu McLean; a Jerusalem tour guide. I’ve also been speaking to Ambassador Manuel Hassassian who is the head of the Palestinian mission to the UK. I asked him for his reaction to UNESCO’s decision.”

Observant audience members would then have realised that they were hearing the first part of the ‘quote’ promoted at the beginning of the programme – as well as what the BBC preferred to edit out of its headline.

Hassassian: “I am not only pleased but I’m thrilled that there is acknowledgement by the international community through UNESCO that Hebron is an occupied city and it should be under the sovereignty of the Palestinian leadership.”

Iqbal: “Well, the UN recognises that Hebron is in the West Bank so that’s not the issue. The issue is the resolution pointing out the committee sees that those areas inside the old city of Hebron that are deemed to be in danger are now protected under a kind of world heritage site notion. What does that mean to the Palestinians?”

Listeners then heard the second half of that spliced quote:

Hassassian: “It means that UNESCO is preserving the culture and the identity of the Palestinian people in Hebron.”

Iqbal: “There has been concern voiced that the application made by the Palestinians to UNESCO only focused on the Islamic period in Hebron’s history and didn’t acknowledge the Christian and Jewish history of key sites in the area. What’s your view of that?”

Seeing as so far listeners had only heard of such concerns from the Israeli prime minister and from an Israeli interviewee, they would be unaware that similar concerns were also raised by the professional body that examined – and recommend not to accept – the Palestinian proposal as well as by several Western countries present at the debate.

Hassassian: “Well you know nobody can deny the fact that…I mean the site in itself also there is of course a tacit agreement and acknowledgement to the Tomb of the Patriarchs there. Nobody is denying that factor and it has been said explicitly in the document that this is, you know, a site that is Muslim, Christian and…err…of course Jewish.”

Iqbal: “Are you saying though that the sites that are clearly of value and significance to all three monotheistic faiths are not being taken care of?”

Hassassian: “Well because Israel controls – we have to understand this – Israel controls the site and Israel has accepted the 300 settlers to reign supreme in that part and to take over, you know, by sheer and brute force the control of that area. Now this resolution comes to say that there is no monopoly, especially using religion, as an excuse to control that part of Hebron.”

Failing to challenge Hassassian’s blatant lie or to remind listeners – and him – that there are Israelis living in that part of Hebron because the Palestinian Authority agreed to such an arrangement twenty years ago and while refraining from clarifying that this latest Palestinian stunt is precisely intended to use religion as a means of controlling that part of the city, Iqbal went on:

Iqbal: “What difference is it going to make on the ground?”

Hassassian: “It makes a big difference. The difference is is [sic] the fact that this is part and parcel of a city that has 200,000 population. They have the right to go there, to practice their religion. It is under the sovereignty of the Palestinians with accessibility to other religions to practice their rights.”

Iqbal: “But hasn’t that been the case already?”

Hassassian: “No it has not been. If you go there, and I was there, ma’am, like six months ago, I had to go through hell in order to enter, you know, the Abrahamic mosque. I had to go through intensive security search and I had to show that I am a Muslim or not. You know: just allow me to enter.”

Iqbal did not bother to ask Hassassian if the security search he had to endure has anything to do with the prevalence of Palestinian terrorism in Hebron or whether the need to show whether he is a Muslim is related to the fact that certain areas of the site – which is run by the Waqf – are open to Muslims but off-limits to Jews for all but ten days a year.  

Iqbal: “And, and you are now saying that it will be absolutely the case that those Israelis and those people who practice Judaism will have access to those sites also, without the kind of treatment that you’re alleging you have to go through when you want to visit the mosque?”

Hassassian: “When there is peace and when is our state not only recognised by the United Nations General Assembly but hopefully by the Security Council and when Israel accepts the Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, I think everything is negotiable.”

Although that would obviously have been a good time – especially in light of that revealing response – to inform listeners of the fact that under the terms of the Oslo Accords the Palestinian Authority is supposed to “ensure free access” to Jewish holy sites in areas under its control – and that already that clause is not properly upheld – Iqbal closed the item there.

Iqbal: “Ambassador Manuel Hassassian who is the head of the Palestinian mission to the United Kingdom.”

As was the case in two other BBC reports on this story (see ‘related articles’ below), audiences were not provided with the relevant context of the PA’s repeated efforts to erase Jewish history and heritage by tabling politicised motions at the UN’s cultural body and neither were they informed that the professional body that examined the Palestinian proposal did not recommend its adoption.

In this report, however, the BBC also failed to present the crux of the story accurately to Radio 4 listeners by repeatedly refraining from including the word ‘Palestinian’ in its description of the UNESCO resolution.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC WS report on PA’s latest UNESCO stunt

BBC’s erases the real story in report on UNESCO’s Hebron resolution 

 

BBC’s Six Day War messaging continues on R4’s ‘Today’

The June 8th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ programme included an item (from 47:53 here) by Tom Bateman which is very similar to the written report he had published on the BBC News website four days earlier.

Listeners first heard presenter Sarah Montague give the following context-free account of the Six Day War: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Montague: “President Trump’s recent visit to the Middle East may have revived some hope, however fragile, of a renewed peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. It comes at a significant moment. This week, from the 5th of June, this week marks 50 years since Israel launched an overwhelming strike against three of its neighbours: Egypt, Syria and Jordan. It believed those countries were planning an invasion. The Six Day War, as it became known, reshaped the region. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman’s been speaking to some of those who remember it.”

To the tune of an Israeli song, Bateman begins his report with a highly airbrushed portrayal of the nineteen-year Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem.

Bateman: “In the summer of 1967 ‘Jerusalem of Gold’ sang of Jewish longing for the city then divided between Israeli and Jordanian control.”

Listeners then hear part of Bateman’s previously promoted interview with Meir Shalev.

Shalev: “Before 1967, when I was eight and nine and ten, my father used to take me along the border line inside the divided Jerusalem and used to tell me ‘you will grow up, you will become a soldier and you will fight over this city’.”

Bateman: “Israeli author Meir Shalev was almost 19 – the same age as his country – when war broke out. He found himself in the north fighting Syrian troops.”

Shalev: “Most of the country felt threatened. Some were even panicked by the possible prospects of this war. People were talking about the possibility of Israel being destroyed and us being exiled or killed.”

After an archive recording of a news bulletin, listeners hear from another of the interviewees that appeared in Bateman’s written report – Jordanian pilot Mahmoud Erdisat.

Erdisat: “We were very, you know, excited that finally we get our chance to fight the Israelis and get Palestine back.”

Refraining from clarifying to listeners that Erdisat’s reference to getting “Palestine back” in fact means invading Israel and taking land which never belonged to Jordan but was designated for a homeland for the Jewish people by the League of Nations, Bateman introduces the speaker.

Bateman: “Mahmoud Erdisat – a now retired general – was training to be a fighter pilot in the Jordanian airforce.”

Erdisat: “But from the second day we came to know that the situation is not exactly what we have in mind.”

Bateman: “And how did you feel at that point?”

Erdisat: “Very bad, very bad. The consequences were so hard that it was the beginning of the end of the Arab secular state. It was a blow to the Arab nationalism.”

Listeners then hear an unidentified archive recording relating to “Arab refugees…displaced from their homes in what is now Israel” before Bateman’s next interviewee is introduced.

Bateman: “Hello, nice to meet you. At her home in East Jerusalem I met Fatima Khadir, surrounded by the ornaments she makes calling for Palestinian statehood. She was 8 when the war broke out and escaped Jerusalem’s Old City with her family, who she says were already displaced after the first Arab-Israeli conflict.”

Listeners hear a voiceover which erroneously implies that a country called ‘Palestine’ was involved in the Six Day War.

“It felt like Palestine fell in six hours, not six days. We were transferred to a camp on the border between Jordan and Saudi. We were living in terrible conditions. Harsh winters, floods and hot summers. I still feel the hurt, pain, and intolerable struggle. We lost our homes back then and we were never able to go back. I’m still hurting. We are still suffering.”

Explaining a clip from another archive recording, Bateman continues.

Bateman: “A radio reporter with Israeli troops told listeners ‘we are inside the Old City of Jerusalem’. ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands’ said a commander before prayers at this return to Judaism’s holiest sites. Yoel Bin Nun was among those fighting.”

Voiceover Bin Nun: “When we were at the Temple Mount my commander asked me ‘Yoel, what do you say now?’. I told him 2,000 years have passed. The meaning is that 2,000 years that the people of Israel were in the diaspora – persecuted, tortured, antisemitism – those 2,000 years were over.”

Bateman: “He believed victory came from heaven and still feels the same way, he says. He went on to become a rabbi and a significant figure in the movement to build Jewish settlements on the West Bank after its capture in 1967. The war’s legacy is different though for the writer Meir Shalev who describes returning from the conflict and confronting his father.”

Shalev: “We started arguing about the results of the war and I told my father ‘we took a bite we will suffocate on’. He was very angry with me. Now 50 years later I think Israel didn’t do much except dealing with the results of the occupation.”

Bateman closes with his take-away message:

Bateman: “The war of 1967 lasted six days. It left consequences still unresolved fifty years later.”

Like Bateman’s written report, this one also clearly aims to steer BBC audiences towards the inaccurate view that the contemporary Palestinian-Israeli conflict is entirely the product of events that began fifty years ago when – according to Sarah Montague’s context-free version of events – Israel woke up one sunny morning and “launched an overwhelming strike” that a week later turned into “occupation”. And like the BBC’s additional reports on the Six Day War, this one too is a lot more concerned with promoting a politicised narrative than it is with enhancing audience understanding of that event in history.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bateman erases history and context from his account of the Six Day War

Jeremy Bowen promotes political narrative in BBC’s Six Day War centrepiece

BBC’s filmed Six Day War backgrounder falls short

A third feature promotes the BBC’s chosen Six Day War narrative 

 

 

 

BBC’s Bateman erases history and context from his account of the Six Day War

On June 4th three videos appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

Six Day War Israeli veteran: ‘Occupation risked suffocation’

“An Israeli veteran of the 1967 Six Day War, Meir Shalev, says holding the West Bank cannot be sustained.” [emphasis added]

Six Day War Israeli veteran: ‘I saw a miracle’

“An Israeli veteran of the 1967 Six Day War, Yoel Ben [sic] Nun, says his country’s victory was “a miracle”.”

Six Day War: ‘We were completely defeated’

“Palestinian Azzam Abu Saud, who fought with the Jordanian army in the 1967 Six Day War, recalls being “defeated completely” by Israel.”

As well as appearing as stand-alone items, those three videos were also embedded in a report by Tom Bateman that appeared in the Middle East page’s ‘Features’ section on the same day under the title “How the Six Day War brought elation and despair“.

In that report, Bateman paraphrases both Israeli interviewees, again spelling Rabbi Dr Yoel Bin Nun’s name wrong and reinforcing the take away message that (as the titling of the videos indicates) audiences are intended to take away from the video featuring Meir Shalev.

Readers of this article might well wonder if Tom Bateman has actually been to the Western Wall:

“The author Meir Shalev was brought to this spot as a boy to look across at the Western Wall – which at the time could not be accessed by Israelis.

He would gaze at the top few bricks of this holy Jewish site while his father told him: “You will grow up, you will become a soldier and you will fight over this city.”” [emphasis added]

Erasing from audience view the crucial context of the 1948 invasion of the nascent Jewish state by Arab countries intent on its destruction as well as the subsequent 19-year occupation of parts of Jerusalem by Jordan, Bateman continues with the following ambiguous portrayal of the situation before 1967:

“At the time Jerusalem was divided between Israeli and Jordanian control.

It followed the 1949 armistice that divided the new Jewish state of Israel from other parts of what had been British Mandate Palestine.”

His portrayal of the Six Day War is no less airbrushed:

“The outbreak of war on 5 June 1967 would change many lives – and reshape that part of the Middle East.

Israel launched a pre-emptive attack on Egypt and battled Jordanian and Syrian forces the same day.”

Bateman refrains from providing audiences with any information concerning the actions and incidents which led up to the war and readers unfamiliar with the details of that 50-year-old event would therefore be quite likely to mistakenly assume that “the outbreak of war” was caused by Israel’s “pre-emptive attack.” Egypt’s closure of the Straits of Tiran, its demand to remove UN forces from the Sinai Peninsula, its massing of troops in Sinai and the public threats to destroy Israel made by Nasser and other Arab leaders were apparently all deemed irrelevant to the story by the BBC’s latest Middle East correspondent.

Bateman does however make sure to include a partisan standard BBC mantra in his article:

“Yoel Ben [sic] Nun later became a rabbi and joined the movement building Jewish settlements in the West Bank – the territory that Palestinians want for a future state.

The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The later part of Bateman’s report is devoted to ‘informing’ readers of the knock-on effects of the Six Day War.

“For Palestinians, the war represented the loss of land following what they saw as the catastrophe of the first Israeli-Arab conflict two decades earlier. […]

Fifty years on, from her home in East Jerusalem, she speaks of her desire to return to her family’s village of the 1940s.

“I still feel the hurt, pain and intolerable struggle,” she says.

“We were never able to go back. I’m still hurting. We are still suffering.””

Failing to inform readers that the Arab nations had done nothing to advance “Palestinian statehood” throughout their entire 19 year occupation of the Gaza Strip, Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem, Bateman quotes a former Jordanian pilot:

“The Israeli territorial increase, claims Mr Erdisat, made it harder to negotiate a “just solution” on the issue of Palestinian statehood.”

The same interviewee is quoted as saying “[w]e were very excited that finally we would get the chance to fight the Israelis and get Palestine back” but Bateman fails to clarify to audiences the significance of that statement.

With no mention whatsoever of post Six Day War Israeli offers to negotiate peace with the Arab nations – and their refusal in the form of the Khartoum Declaration – Bateman closes his article with a whitewashed reference to Palestinian terrorism:

“But its [the war’s] legacy further fuelled Palestinian national aspirations.

Occupation became central to their calls to activism and militancy, placing it firmly on the international agenda for years to come.”

Understanding the Six Day War and its consequences is impossible if crucial context is erased. That context includes not only the Egyptian actions that directly sparked the conflict, but the underlying refusal of the Arab states to accept Israel’s presence. That refusal was of course the basis of what Bateman euphemistically refers to as “the first Israeli-Arab conflict two decades earlier” as well as the Six Day War and the subsequent Yom Kippur War.

It is, however, very clear that the aim of this article and its accompanying videos is not to enhance audience understanding of a historic event, but to steer BBC audiences towards the view that the contemporary Palestinian-Israeli conflict is entirely the product of events that began fifty years ago when – according to the BBC’s omission-ridden presentation – Israel woke up one sunny morning and “launched a pre-emptive attack” that a week later turned into “occupation”.

Related Articles:

BBC WS tells a context-free tale of Egypt’s Six Day War ‘naksa’

Six Day War Anniversary resources

Reviewing a BBC News Online Six Day War backgrounder 

 

 

 

BBC WS Newshour promotes ‘apartheid’ smear in Trump visit coverage

The lead story in the May 22nd afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ was the visit of the US president to Israel which, at the time of broadcast, had commenced just a few hours earlier.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the item (from 01:07 here) as follows: [all emphasis in italics in the original, all emphasis in bold added]

“We begin though with President Trump’s continuing visit in the Middle East. He’s now in Israel having flown direct from Saudi Arabia; in itself a first as there are no diplomatic relations between those two countries. And he arrives having cast himself as the world’s greatest deal-maker, nodding towards what would be the world’s biggest deal: peace between the Israeli and the Palestinians…Israelis and Palestinians. More than two decades of failed peace talks show how difficult a deal between the two sides has been and despite Mr Trump’s deal-making claims, there is deeply held scepticism over what progress can be made. We’ll be assessing what scope there is for movement in what’s been a stand-off for some time.

Speaking shortly after arriving in Tel Aviv, President Trump said he had found new reasons for hope during his recent travels. [recording of Trump speaking]. And the prime minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement. [recording of Netanyahu speaking]”.

Iqbal then introduced the person that ‘Newshour’ bizarrely deemed appropriate to provide the opening comment on this lead story – BBC frequent flyer Mustafa Barghouti.

Iqbal: “Well in contrast to the public rhetoric, underlining the mammoth task ahead of anyone attempting to tackle the possibility of peace in the Middle East [sic], a Palestinian official, Mustafa Barghouti, speaking to the BBC reminded President Trump that achieving peace would not be an easy process and would require significant concessions from Israel.”

Barghouti: “There is a military occupation of the Palestinian territories since 50 years and without ending the occupation there will be no peace. We want him to remember that this occupation has become a system of apartheid much worse than what prevailed in South Africa at one point in time. And we want him to remember that there is a need for the Palestinian freedom; a need for Palestinians to have their own independent and sovereign state. Without a Palestinian state there will be no peace.”

There is nothing to indicate that Barghouti was speaking live with Iqbal. Rather, this apparently pre-recorded statement with its promotion of the politically motivated ‘apartheid’ calumny  – which the BBC knows full well to be a falsehood used as a propaganda device to delegitimise Israel – was selected by the programme’s editors for inclusion in the item. Not only did Iqbal fail to clarify to listeners that Barghouti’s smear is baseless, she subsequently repeated it, as we shall see later on.

Iqbal continued:

“Palestinian official Mustafa Barghouti. Let’s speak now to our correspondent Tom Bateman who joins us live from Jerusalem. So, ah, Tom – the…eh…arrival of President Trump and his wife – there was quite a lot of warmth and friendliness at the airport. How’s the visit gone so far?”

After Bateman had described the security arrangements in the Old City of Jerusalem as the US president visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall he went on:

Bateman: “And these are really the symbols of this visit. What we have yet to have is the substance and that is on two really key issues, I think. Firstly, following on from his visit to Saudi, as you heard there from the president himself, he wants to create a regional coalition which will include Israel. And this is really his attempt to reset US foreign policy after that of President Obama about whom he was so critical because he believes, as he said, that he thinks there is a common threat here to the Gulf states, to the majority Sunni countries and to Israel and that is in the form of Iran.”

Following Bateman’s outlining of his second ‘key issue’ – “peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians” – Iqbal picked up on his previous reference to Iran.

Iqbal: “You mentioned Iran and there was some criticism of Iran when the president was in Saudi Arabia and he has underlined that criticism again today in Israel hasn’t he?”

Bateman: “That’s right and, you know, I don’t think that’s going to be the last of it and of course it’s a message that resonates with Israel because Israel’s government is extremely concerned about Iran. They believe that…ah…because of its action, that they say it’s arming Hizballah just north of Israel here in Syria [sic], that that brings an even greater threat – in fact its greatest threat in the form of Hizballah just over its border in Lebanon.”

One would of course expect a BBC correspondent based in Jerusalem – new or not – to be capable of informing BBC audiences that Iranian financial and military support for Hizballah (in violation of UNSC resolution 1701) is not just something that the Israeli government ‘says’ but a fact about which Hizballah has been open and at least one Iranian official has admitted.

The Iranian angle to this story reappeared again in a later item in the same programme which will be discussed in a subsequent post.

Following her conversation with Bateman, Razia Iqbal introduced her next guest – former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. During that conversation Iqbal recycled Barghouti’s ‘apartheid’ calumny (10:52):

Iqbal: “I mean there are huge, huge challenges on both sides and there has been of course a stalemate and no real peace process for…for many years now. What do you think he [Trump] will make of the line he is almost certainly going to get from the Palestinians which we heard a sense of from Mustafa Barghouti: that there is this military occupation, that it’s really become a system of apartheid and it’s much worse than what prevailed in South Africa. How do think that will be…that will go down with President Trump?”

Shapiro: “I don’t think he will accept that narrative as a complete and accurate narrative of the situation. […] I don’t think he will accept that narrative – nor do I think he should.”

Iqbal: “Well if you don’t think he should accept that narrative, what’s your assessment then of both President Trump and his son-in-law and special envoy Jared Kushner and their attempts to really try and bring about something that has been so elusive?”

The editorial decision to promote Barghouti’s patently false and baseless ‘apartheid’ calumny in this item is further underscored by Iqbal’s repetition of the smear. This is not a case of a presenter inadequately responding to an inaccurate statement made by a guest during a live interview. This is the BBC World Service intentionally providing amplification for a falsehood used as part of a political campaign to delegitimise Israel and it clearly does not meet the BBC’s supposed standards of ‘impartial’ journalism.

Related Articles:

Nasrallah speech necessitates update of BBC’s Hizballah profile

An Iranian story the BBC chose not to translate

Resources:

How to complain to the BBC

Trump visit coverage on BBC Radio 4 promotes unchallenged inaccuracies

The BBC’s coverage of the US president’s visit to Israel included two items broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ on the morning of May 22nd.

The first item (from 2:05:36 here) was part of the 8 a.m. news bulletin and listeners were told that the proposal to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem is a “break with decades of US policy” while the existence of the 1995 US Embassy Relocation Act was not mentioned.

Newsreader: “President Trump will arrive in Israel this morning on the second leg of his first overseas tour. He’s due to meet both Israeli and Palestinian leaders and visit a number of holy sites. It’s unclear if Mr Trump will repeat a previous aim to break with decades of US policy and move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Here’s our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.”

Amplifying the Palestinian narrative by referring simplistically to “occupied territory” rather than informing listeners that Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria are all located in Area C and that the final status of that area is – according to agreements already signed between Israel and the Palestinians – to be determined in negotiations, Bowen told listeners:

Bowen: “During the US election candidate Trump expressed views that seemed to fit neatly with those of the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, favouring expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied territory and a tough line towards Palestinian aspirations for independence. But in office, President Trump has been more nuanced so there’s been some nervous speculation on the Israeli right that he might demand concessions from their side. During the visit he’ll meet both Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Reports in the Israeli press quoting White House sources say that President Trump will ask them to undertake confidence building measures to try to improve the climate enough eventually to resume direct talks.”

The second item in the same programme (from 2:50:24 here) was introduced by presenter John Humphrys – using a highly questionable claim:

Humphrys: “Donald Trump says he can bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It’s the ultimate deal, he says, and today he goes to Israel to prove it – or not. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Tom Bateman’s report commences in Eilat with the space-filling and rather pointless story of a proposed visit by Trump to that town in 1989 which did not materialise. Echoing his ME editor’s previous statements, Bateman went on to tell listeners that:

“Trump’s campaign energised many on the right of Israeli politics who felt shunned – betrayed even – by President Obama. Candidate Trump could close the gap, they felt, by moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, by giving a green light to settlement building in the West Bank.”

Having interviewed an Israeli who ran the Trump election campaign aimed at Israeli-American voters and after visiting a church in Bethlehem and speaking with two ‘man on the street’ Palestinian interviewees, Bateman went on introduce his final contributor.

Bateman: “Majed Bamya is a Palestinian diplomat acquainted with the view from Washington. It was noticeable of course at President Trump’s press conference with President Abbas that Mr Trump never used the expression ‘two-state solution’; it was notably absent. Does that concern you?”

Majed Bamya (who, despite the claim in his Twitter handle to be ‘from Yaffa’ was actually born in the UAE) was then given an unhindered platform from which to mislead BBC Radio 4 listeners.

Bamya: “We are hoping that President Trump will be able to shape his message and his positions – including during his upcoming visit – on things as important as the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, which is enshrined in international law, on the two-state solution – and the two-state solution means ’67 borders – on settlements. We believe that’s an important issue as well and we hope that his feeling of the ground will reveal to him that we are facing an occupation that is annexing land instead of withdrawing from it, which is the basis of peace.” [emphasis in bold added]

Rather than explaining to listeners that (as the BBC well knows) there is no such thing as “’67 borders”, that the two-state solution does not necessarily mean the establishment of a Palestinian state according to 1949 Armistice lines and that land is not being ‘annexed’, Bateman instead encouraged listeners to believe that it is all about “narrative”:

“Donald Trump will not only have to deal with the competing narratives in this conflict but attempt to restart talks with the two sides deeply polarised”

While narratives undoubtedly exist, so do facts. It is the BBC’s job to help it audiences distinguish between narratives and facts –as defined in its public purposes.

“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.”

The failure to challenge inaccurate claims promoted as part of politically motivated messaging actively hinders that public purpose.

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