Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – September 2019

Throughout the month of September 2019, twenty-four written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which also appeared on other pages and three of which were carried over from the previous month.

(dates indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

One report concerned a terrorist incident:

Israeli PM Netanyahu whisked away amid sirens (10/9/19 to 21/9/19)

Four reports concerned alleged or confirmed external security issues:

Hezbollah fires rockets into Israel from Lebanon (1/9/19 to 5/9/19) discussed here

Israel and Hezbollah: Shadow-boxing with live weapons Jonathan Marcus (2/9/19 to 8/9/19)

Inside Iraqi paramilitary base hit in ‘Israeli’ strike (9/9/19 to 17/9/19)

Syria war: ‘Air strikes’ hit Iran-backed forces near Iraq border (9/9/19 to 10/9/19)

Three items related to political/diplomatic stories, including a long-running report carried over from the previous month about an alleged spy for Israel in Iran.

‘Iran tortured me into confessing to be an Israeli spy’ Jiyar Gol (13/8/19 to 15/9/19)

Saeid Mollaei: Iranian judoka fears for safety after refusing to quit World Championships BBC Sport (2/9/19 to 4/9/19) discussed here

Netanyahu denies Politico report Israel spying on the White House (12/9/19 to 17/9/19)

One item concerned archaeology:

Denisovans: Face of long-lost human relative unveiled (19/9/19 to 22/9/19)

Three reports, one of which was carried over from the previous month, concerned Palestinian social and political affairs:

Gaza explosions: ‘Suicide bombers’ kill three police officers (28/8/19 to 1/9/19)

Israa Ghrayeb: Murder charges for Palestinian ‘honour killing’ (12/9/19 to 15/9/19)

Israa Ghrayeb: Palestinian woman’s death prompts soul-searching Tom Bateman (16/9/19 to 18/9/19) discussed here

Of 12 reports concerning Israeli affairs, eleven related to the general election, coverage of which was discussed here.

Israel PM Netanyahu vows to annex occupied Jordan Valley (10/9/19)

Arab nations condemn Netanyahu’s Jordan Valley annexation plan (11/9/19 to 13/9/19)

Israel election a referendum on Netanyahu Jeremy Bowen (16/9/19 to 19/9/19)

Israel’s election: The most important things to know (17/9/19 to 19/9/19)

Israel election: Netanyahu in tough fight in this year’s second vote (17/9/19)

Israel election: Netanyahu and rival headed for deadlock (18/9/19)

Israel election: Netanyahu and Gantz compete over leadership (19/9/19 to 22/9/19)

Israeli elections: What do the results reveal? Tom Bateman (21/9/19 to 29/9/19)

Israeli elections: Arab parties back Gantz to oust Netanyahu (23/9/19 to 25/9/19)

Israeli elections: Netanyahu and Gantz take ‘significant step’ towards deal (23/9/19 to 25/9/19)

Israeli elections: Netanyahu asked to form next government (25/9/19 to 27/9/19)

One report carried over from the previous month concerned Palestinian detainees:

Palestinian conflict: Diaries of childhood in Israeli military detention Megha Mohan/Yusef Eldin (28/8/19 to 10/9/19) discussed here.

The BBC News website continues its practice of reporting Israeli affairs far more extensively than it does internal Palestinian affairs with visitors having seen over seven times more coverage of the former in the first three quarters of the year.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – August 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – July 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – June 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – May 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – April 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – March 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – February 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2019

 

 

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BBC report on Palestinian affairs promotes gratuitous Israel references

BBC Watch regularly documents the comparatively little coverage given by the BBC to internal Palestinian affairs and so it was interesting to note the appearance of a report headlined “Israa Ghrayeb: Murder charges for Palestinian ‘honour killing’” on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page between September 12th and 15th.

On September 16th an additional article relating to the same story appeared in the ‘features’ section of the same webpage under the headline “Israa Ghrayeb: Palestinian woman’s death prompts soul-searching”, where it remained for three days.

Written by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman, the article opened with a gratuitous references to Israeli counter-terrorism measures and an editorialised – but context-free – reference to the anti-terrorist fence. [emphasis added]

“When a young woman was admitted to Al Hussein hospital with a fractured spine and bruises on her body and face, doctors began to treat yet another case of traumatic injury.

Everyone here was used to young patients arriving with devastating wounds.

The hospital is located close to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, whose streets lead past packed suburban refugee camps to Israeli army checkpoints and the foreboding separation barrier – all frequent flashpoints for violence.”

Bateman’s reference to “flashpoints for violence” of course fails to inform readers that such violence is usually the outcome of Palestinian terrorism.

Seeing as the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau decided to produce a feature article on the under-reported topic of violence against Palestinian women, one would have expected some factual information concerning the broader legal and social background and indeed the final section of the article included some fairly generalised discussion of those topics – and a rare reference to the nineteen-year Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria.

“Campaigners blame a culture of impunity towards male perpetrators, bolstered by a penal code dating from the 1960s in the period that Jordan occupied the West Bank.

Some of its provisions create a loophole used by Palestinian courts to pardon or issue lenient sentences to men who commit violence against women when they plead they acted out of family honour.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2011 amended the law with the aim of deterring the so-called “honour killings” excuse.

But a 2017 report by the United Nations said judges in most cases still resorted to articles 99 and 100 of the code, “whose application mitigates the penalty of killing, including if the victim comes from the same family of the perpetrator”.

It also said Palestinian women suffered “multiple sources of discrimination and violence” both in public and private.”

However, Bateman apparently could not resist including another gratuitous reference to Israel taken from that politicised report by UN rapporteur Dubravka Šimonovic.

“”They suffer the violence of the Israeli occupation, whether directly or indirectly, but they also suffer from a system of violence emanating from the tradition and culture, with embedded patriarchal social norms,” the report added.”

In other words, even when producing an extremely rare feature article on the very serious issue of discrimination and violence suffered by women in Palestinian society, the BBC’s Tom Bateman could not resist promoting irrelevant politicised references to Israel.

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of Israel’s election

In contrast to previous election campaigns in 2013, 2015 and April 2019, BBC News website coverage of the September 17th election was relatively limited with just seven written reports appearing between September 16th and September 22nd.

Nevertheless, some familiar themes were evident in that coverage along with some new ones.

September 16th: Israel election a referendum on Netanyahu, Jeremy Bowen

In that article the BBC’s Middle East editor – whose job it is to provide “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” and “to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting” – employed the standard BBC tactic of presenting history as having begun in June 1967 while erasing the Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem from audience view.

“The southern end of the [Jordan] valley, where I am, has been occupied by Israel since 1967, a big part of the land it captured in that year’s Middle East War.”

As has been the case in BBC coverage of all Israeli elections throughout the past six years, this time too the topic of the ‘peace process’ was framed as being exclusively dependent on Israeli actions.

“Usually the valley is a sleepy place. But Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed it into his country’s general election, which is coming up this Tuesday. He declared that if he was returned as prime minister, he would annex the Jordan Valley, and Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. The suggestion has been condemned by many of Israel’s friends, including Britain, on the grounds that it would be yet another nail in the coffin containing hopes for peace. Israel would have absorbed land Palestinians want for a state.”

Bowen told BBC audiences that:

“Israel’s electoral system always produces coalitions. Would-be prime ministers need to add their own party’s seats to those of smaller parties who exact a price for giving their support. The ultra-Orthodox have been staunch supporters of Mr Netanyahu. Without their seats, he would not be able to form a government.”

Apparently the BBC’s Middle East editor has forgotten that in 2013, Netanyahu did form a government without the ultra-Orthodox parties.

September 17th: Israel’s election: The most important things to know

In this article BBC audiences found both a problematic video dating from June 2019 in which Israeli citizens living in certain locations are portrayed by the BBC’s Yolande Knell as “illegal” and a partisan map produced by the political NGO ‘B’tselem’ which has often been promoted in previous BBC content.

Once again audiences saw promotion of the Palestinian narrative according to which the prognosis of the ‘peace process’ depends entirely upon Israel, along with the BBC’s habitual but partial mantra concerning ‘international law’.

“The fate of the Palestinians depends on who is in power in Israel, since Israel occupies land which they seek for a state of their own.

Mr Netanyahu says he will never agree to a sovereign Palestinian state with powers like any other country (something which he says will be a serious threat to Israel).

He has also pledged to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and a swathe of land known as the Jordan Valley (which comprises about 30% of the West Bank). Because they are built on occupied territory, the settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

The Palestinians, who want the settlements removed, say such a move would make a Palestinian state impossible and kill the peace process once and for all.”

The BBC promoted the unsupported claim that:

“…Mr Netanyahu is politically right wing and ideologically driven by Jewish claims to the land based on the Bible…”

Readers were told that: [emphasis added]

“In April’s election, Mr Netanyahu won the most votes but failed to form a coalition, which is he why he called a snap poll for 17 September.”

In fact, rather than Netanyahu acting alone as claimed by the BBC, the Knesset voted to dissolve itself and to hold another election.

September 17th: Israel election: Netanyahu in tough fight in this year’s second vote

At the beginning of this report readers were again wrongly informed that Netanyahu alone called an election.

“Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting to hold on to power following one of its closest election races in years.

He called Tuesday’s snap election after failing to form a governing coalition in the wake of an election in April.”

However the article’s final paragraph indicates that in fact the BBC knows that is not the case.

“After April’s election, Mr Netanyahu’s attempts to form a new government failed and he ran out of time in May. He pressed for new elections and Israeli MPs voted by a significant margin in favour of a new poll.”

Readers again found Yolande Knell’s problematic video branding people “illegal” in this report along with the previously seen Palestinian talking points concerning the ‘peace process’ and the BBC’s ‘international law’ mantra.

“Last week, Mr Netanyahu declared he would “apply Israeli sovereignty” in the Jordan Valley if he won. The announcement amounted to a promise to effectively annex 30% of the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians want to be part of a future state.

Amid international condemnation, the Palestinian leadership called the move a war crime which would bury any prospects for peace.

Mr Netanyahu also reiterated a pledge from the last election to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

September 18th: Israel election: Netanyahu and rival headed for deadlock

The same narrative concerning the ‘peace process’ was evident in this report too.

“Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has been in office for 10 years and is vying to win a record fifth term in office.

The 69-year-old, who leads the right-wing Likud party, has pledged to annex Jewish settlements and a swathe of other territory in the occupied West Bank if he is returned to power.

Palestinians, who seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in occupied East Jerusalem, have warned such a move will kill any hopes for peace.”

Readers also discovered that, according to the BBC, Israelis are not allowed to decide on their own capital city:

“Like Mr Netanyahu, he [Gantz] has ruled out ever dividing Jerusalem, which Israel considers its capital.”

September 19th: Israel election: Netanyahu and Gantz compete over leadership

September 21st: Israeli elections: What do the results reveal? Tom Bateman

The problematic video by Yolande Knell was promoted in this report too along with the same messaging concerning the ‘peace process’.

“The campaign led to a hardening of the view among Palestinians that the so-called two-state solution – the long held international formula for peace – is no longer viable, according to the pollster Dr Khalil Shikaki.

“There is no doubt that the debate during the election campaign in Israel has been significantly damaging to the Palestinian willingness to support diplomacy and negotiations,” he says, citing Mr Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the Jordan Valley and all Israeli settlements in the West Bank.”

Once again no effort was made to delve into the question of where that Palestinian “support” for “diplomacy and negotiations” has been throughout the past 26 years since the Oslo Accords were signed or to clarify that some Palestinian factions. including Hamas. explicitly reject such ideas. Significantly though, Bateman did find it appropriate to tout the so-called ‘one-state solution’.

“Dr Shikaki says that instead around a third of Palestinians opt for the idea of a “one-state” outcome – meaning a single country between the Mediterranean and the river Jordan in which every individual has an equal vote; something Israelis would see as risking the end of the Jewish state.”

Bateman also elected to promote disinformation concerning the voting rights of Palestinians.

“While around five million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza cannot vote in Israeli elections, they are affected by the decisions of those who can.”

Arab residents of East Jerusalem are entitled vote in Israeli elections if they have chosen to take Israeli citizenship and Palestinians living under Palestinian Authority rule in parts of Judea & Samaria or under Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip of course vote – when their rulers allow it – for the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Bateman also chose to use politicised terminology to describe Israel’s Arab population:

“In fact, with nearly all the votes counted, turnout went up to nearly 70%, from 68.5% in April.

Some of that rise was because many more of Israel’s Palestinian citizens – Arab Israelis – voted this time than they did in April.”

Once again we see the BBC promoting a politicised description of Arab Israelis despite the fact that only a minority self-identify as Palestinian.

September 22nd: Israeli elections: Arab parties back Gantz to oust Netanyahu

This article included the same politicised terminology (has there been a memo?) in analysis by Barbara Plett Usher:

“The leader of the Arab grouping, Ayman Odeh, said it wasn’t endorsing Mr Gantz and his polices: but was moving to try and block Benjamin Netanyahu from securing another term, and to send a clear message that Israel’s future must include the full and equal participation of its Palestinian citizens.”

Apparently the BBC considers it acceptable for its journalists to identify people according to their own political narrative rather than to reflect how those people self-identify.

All versions of this report told readers that:

“The Joint List won 13 seats in the election. If Mr Gantz had the endorsement of all 13 seats, he would still fall short of the 61 seats needed for a majority in the 120-seat legislature.”

By the time the later versions were published it was known that the Joint List’s ‘Balad’ faction had rejected inclusion in that endorsement but the BBC did not bother to update its report accordingly.

Back in January 2013 we made the following observations in relation to BBC coverage of that year’s Israeli election:

“Most blatantly obvious is the fact that the BBC’s insistence upon framing this election almost exclusively in terms of the potential effect of its results on ‘the peace process’ reflects its own institutional attitude towards that subject, both in terms of its perceived importance and in terms of the curious notion that only what Israel does has any effect upon that process’ chances. 

Broadly speaking – and we see this reflected time and time again in its reporting; not only in relation to the elections – the BBC absolves the Palestinian side of the equation of any responsibility for the progress of the peace process (or lack of it) and turns Palestinians into child-like creatures lacking all agency.”

Two years later we noted that:

“The most outstanding characteristic of BBC reporting on the 2015 Israeli election from day one was the insistence of its journalists on framing the story from the angle of its effect on negotiations with the Palestinians – despite the fact that other concerns were much higher up on voters’ lists of priorities.”

In April of this year we commented:

“Overall, the BBC News website’s selective coverage of the 2019 election conformed to the agenda evident in the corporation’s reporting of the two previous ones. Israel was once again portrayed as a country ‘shifting’ to the right and that alleged shift was depicted as the exclusive reason for the predicted failure to make progress in ‘the peace process’.

In order to promote that framing, the BBC of course has to ignore the fact that no matter which Israeli political party has won elections over the past twenty-seven years, all attempts to bring an end to the conflict have been met with a negative response from the other side.  

And yet, despite its obligation to “build people’s understanding” the BBC continues its dumbed-down, narrative-driven portrayal of the ‘peace process’ as being entirely dependent upon the paper placed in the ballot box by Israeli voters.”

As we see, the BBC’s overriding interest in promoting a political narrative means that it continues to adhere to that well-worn formula.

Related Articles:

Mapping the BBC’s use of partisan maps

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

BBC widens its ‘illegal under international law’ mantra to include people

 

 

 

 

 

 

The BBC’s double standards on annexation

Back in April the BBC got rather excited about a pre-election statement made by the Israeli prime minister concerning the possibility of annexing Israeli communities in Area C.

An article headlined “Israel PM vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected” informed audiences that “Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat” referred to such a move as a violation of international law and the BBC’s Arab affairs editor described Netanyahu’s comments as “potentially explosive” and bound to rouse “Palestinian fury” and “international condemnation”.

A commentator brought in by BBC Radio 4 described any such move as “another severe blow for the Palestinians” which “would cause massive riots across the West Bank”. The BBC’s Tom Bateman told visitors to the BBC News website that “the possibility of Israel annexing parts of the occupied West Bank” indicate that Israel has undergone “a marked shift to the right”.

BBC World Service radio audiences were informed by Bateman that the idea of annexing Israeli communities means that “the prospect of the internationally held formula – a two-state solution with Israel and the Palestinians – really moved even further to the margins”. Listeners to a business programme on the same station heard about “an aggressive move…in the West Bank”.

That “vow” has of course not materialised in the five months since it was made but in recent days another regional leader decided to take unilateral steps concerning Area C.

“The Palestinian Authority announced over the weekend that it has decided to cancel the division of the West Bank into Area A, B and C according to the Oslo Accords the Palestinian Liberation Organization had signed with Israel in 1993 and 1995. 

From now on, the PA will treat all West Bank territories as Palestinian territories under its sovereignty. […]

Palestinian Minister of Local Government Majdi al-Saleh, who is backed by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, asked the district leaders and branch heads in Shtayyeh’s office to broaden the master plan for Palestinian towns at the expense of open and green spaces bordering them, without regard to the existing divisions. Saleh explained that the directive was received following instruction from the PA to cancel the division of Areas A, B and C.”

Not only have BBC audiences not been told that the PA’s Oslo Accords breaching annexation (the addition of an area or region to a country, state, etc.) of Area C is a ‘violation of international law’ or “potentially explosive” or detrimental to the two-state solution – they have not been informed of it at all.

BBC Radio 4’s uncritical amplification of Ilhan Omar’s falsehood

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ are promised “in depth reporting, intelligent analysis and breaking news from a global perspective”. Here is what those listeners heard (from 03:39 here) in the news bulletin which opened the programme’s August 15th edition. [emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “Israel has banned two US Democrat Congresswomen from entering the country because they’ve been critical of its policies towards the Palestinians. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar had been expected to begin a tour of the Palestinian territories later this week. Ms Omar has accused the Israelis of implementing President Trump’s ban on Muslims. Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “The Congresswomen – Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia and grew up in the US, and Rashida Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent – have both supported the movement to boycott Israel. They were due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem next week in a trip that had become the focus of controversy. Israel passed a law two years ago allowing it to ban entry to supporters of the boycott movement. Earlier on Thursday, President Trump tweeted that Israel would show weakness to allow them in, calling them a disgrace and accusing them of antisemitism. Israel’s interior ministry later said it would not allow them entry. The not-for-profit group that was organising the visit called the move an assault on the Palestinian people’s right to reach out to decision makers from around the world.”

That sixty-six second item prompts several observations:

1) Tlaib and Omar were not denied entry “because they’ve been critical” of Israel’s – unspecified – “policies towards the Palestinians”. They were refused entry to Israel because they openly support a political campaign which negates Jewish self-determination but as ever BBC audiences heard absolutely nothing about the obviously relevant topic of the BDS campaign’s aims in this bulletin.

2) There is no “ban on Muslims” either in the US or in Israel. In fact:

“A record number of visitors from Muslim countries came to Israel last year, including nearly 55,000 from countries that have no diplomatic relations with Jerusalem.

According to figures provided by the Population and Immigration Authority on Monday, 72,109 citizens of Egypt and Jordan (the only Arab countries with which Israel has full diplomatic ties), Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia visited Israel in 2018.”

3) Once again BBC audiences heard nothing about the political NGO ‘Miftah’ – opaquely described by Bateman as a “not-for-profit group” without any mention of its agenda and record. Neither were they told that earlier this month Palestinian leaders met with no fewer than 72 Democrat and Republicandecision makers” from the US Congress.

Given the failure by Tom Bateman to provide any relevant background information on the BDS campaign or the political NGO ‘Miftah’, given that listeners were misled with the claim that Tlaib and Omar were not permitted to enter Israel because “they’ve been critical” and given this item’s unquestioning and uncritical amplification of falsehoods from Omar and ‘Miftah’, readers can decide for themselves whether Radio 4 audiences got the “in depth reporting” and “intelligent analysis” touted on this programme’s webpage.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC reporting of Tlaib and Omar story

 

BBC radio audiences get ‘the word’ and ‘theories’ instead of facts and analysis

On the same day that the BBC News website published a highly partial report on the topic of new Israeli building permits, listeners to the July 31st evening edition of  the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard presenter James Coomarasamy introduce the final item (from 48:49 here) with the claim that security cabinet approval for those permits came a day later than was actually the case.  

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

Coomarasamy: “Now let’s hear about some developments in the Middle East because President Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy Jared Kushner has been meeting Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. The meeting comes on the day when the Israeli government gave rare approval for the building of 700 Palestinian homes in a part of the occupied West Bank, along with permission for another 6,000 homes for Jewish settlers. The Palestinians bitterly oppose Jewish settlement building and they say this permission is simply another land seizure.”

Seeing as any building would likely take place within the boundaries of existing communities, that claim of a “land seizure” is clearly far fetched and Coomarasamy’s suggestion that the security cabinet approval stipulates the religion/ethnicity of potential residents is equally inaccurate. He went on:

Coomarasamy: “Omar Hajajrei [phonetic] lives in the affected area.”

Listeners were not informed who that interviewee is, to which organisation – if any – he belongs or what makes him qualified to comment on the topic besides his place of residence.

Voiceover translation from Arabic: “This is a lie and it’s only for the media. It’s an excuse to build settlements and to have a barrier of settlements around Jerusalem as you can see in front of us. There are around 1,500 residential units. They started six months ago and look how much they’ve built so far. They will build all around the mountain. It is a lie. Even if they will give permits, they will not give it the right way.”

Coomarasamy: “I’ve been discussing this decision with Raphael Ahren, a diplomatic correspondent of Times of Israel.”

The ‘analysis’ that listeners heard from Raphael Ahren commenced – and continued – with pure speculation.

Ahren: “It is quite unusual. Usually it’s not the security cabinet who debates and decides these issues. It doesn’t need security cabinet discussions. The word here in Israel is that Netanyahu decided to bring this topic up for discussion among the ministers so he can sort of share the blame. If people criticise them for it he can say ‘well all the ministers in the cabinet bear responsibility for that decision and it’s not just me’.”

Coomarasmay: Why might he have decided to go ahead with it?”

The answer to that question was no more evidence based.

Ahren: “Well nobody really knows. There are several theories going around. I’ll offer you two theories. One is that the American administration which is preparing to release its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan has asked him to do so.”

However Ahren then admitted that not only does he have nothing to support that speculation but it has actually been refuted.

Ahren: “This evening the US ambassador David Friedman and his people say that they made no such request and that they didn’t even hint at it. But sometimes, people say, you don’t even have to make an explicit request. Everybody knows that as the Trump administration releases its probably pro-Israel peace plan, it probably looks good to have this gesture for the Palestinians.”

Ahren then presented more evidence-free speculation:

Ahren: “The second reason I would offer had nothing to do with the Americans, had nothing to do with the forthcoming peace plan but rather with the fear of litigation in the International Criminal Court in the Hague. I heard reports tonight that the special prosecutor is in the final stages of her decision-making process whether to proceed from the currently ongoing preliminary examination in the situation in Palestine to a full-fledged investigation. According to that logic the settlements are a war crime and if then Israel only ever advances housing for Jewish residents but not for Palestinian residents of the West Bank it wouldn’t look good, it would kind of provoke her.”

Coomarasamy made no effort to question the assertion that the ICC bases its decisions on whether or not it is ‘provoked’ and Ahren continued:

Ahren: “You might have heard even last week it made international headlines that Israel demolished illegal structures in the West Bank. I toured the West Bank today where settlement leaders have different opinions on this but some people are actually saying in a world where everything’s forbidden, everything’s allowed. If we never give permits for them to build we cannot expect them not to build and then it doesn’t look good if we only destroy and we don’t let them build.”

Coomarasamy: “If it is the first of the two theories you put forward and it is a bone, as you put it, to be thrown to the Palestinians, is it one that they’re likely to touch?”

Ahren: “Well yeah I mean of course they want to be a building for their people so it’s not something that they’re going to reject. I may say, some of these houses may already have been built and these permits are sort of coming retroactively. Palestinians, as I mentioned, do not get a lot of permits to build in the West Bank and there is natural growth of the Palestinian population there and therefore a lot of illegal structures are going on. These 700 permits might just be used sort of to legalise them after the fact.”

How the BBC can possibly claim that those unsupported speculations would help BBC audiences understand the story is of course unclear and listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Midnight News on August 1st (from 22:10 here) did little better.

Newsreader: “Israel has given rare approval for 700 Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank. It also said that 6,000 homes could be built for Jewish settlers. The announcement was made as President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner arrived in Jordan to drum up support for US attempts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. From Jerusalem, here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Tom Bateman of course recited the BBC’s usual partial mantra on ‘international law’.

Bateman: “The government decision gives the go-ahead for a significant number of new homes in settlements – which are seen as illegal under international law – and is said to further extend Israeli presence in the occupied West Bank. But it is Israel’s approval for Palestinian homes that is unusual. It is not clear whether these would be 700 new constructions or merely legal consent for existing homes in what is known as Area C. Here, Israel has full control and builds new settlement houses but new Palestinian homes are frequently demolished as Israel virtually never gives them building permission.”

Bateman next amplified an obviously absurd Palestinian claim and presented listeners with yet another speculative theory.

Bateman: “The Palestinian leadership called the announcement piracy. The timing, with Mr Kushner’s visit to the region underway, may be significant. The White House’s faltering attempts to deliver what Mr Trump has called ‘the ultimate deal’ between Israelis and Palestinians is based on money and backing from Arab states. This may have been one way of trying to convince them to take part in the process and address the long-held criticism that the administration’s support is heavily weighted towards Israel.”

That, apparently, is what the BBC thinks it can pass off as “a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers”.

Related Articles:

More repetition of the BBC’s partial narrative on construction

BBC News report omits significant information

BBC radio audiences hear one-sided reports from Yolande Knell

 

What was missing from a ‘not to be missed’ report on BBC Two’s Newsnight?

The July 3rd edition of the BBC Two programme ‘Newsnight’ included a report by the Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman which was described by the BBC as “not to be missed”.

As well as being shown on the programme itself, a clip from the report was posted on the Newsnight webpage under the title “Growing tensions between West Bank Palestinians & Israeli settlers”.

“The fate of the two state solution between Israelis and Palestinians is looking bleaker than ever.

The Americans now barely mention the term; their envoy in Jerusalem speaks instead of Israel’s “right” to sovereignty in parts of the occupied West Bank and UN figures suggest growing cases of violence by settlers amid a recent spike in bloodshed by both sides.”

Neither in that synopsis nor the report itself were audiences told which UN agency produced those figures but it is more than likely the highly partisan UNOCHA which produces regular reports based on information provided by political NGOs, some of which are involved in ‘lawfare’ campaigns against Israel.

Bateman opened his report with an incident which took place in Yasuf in early June, telling viewers that:

“The Israeli police say they are searching for the suspects but so far they’ve found no-one: a common outcome in these kinds of cases.”

After giving air-time to unevidenced claims from another interviewee from the same village, Bateman told viewers that:

“These villagers grew up under military occupation. Now their children see the Israeli watch towers too. Reported hate crimes against Palestinians doubled to nearly 300 last year says the UN. Villagers must ultimately turn to the Israeli army for protection, with all the complexity that entails. A military drawn from one people among two hostile populations.”

Having spoken to the deputy mayor of Yasuf, Bateman told BBC audiences:

“I think the main thing is that this is not just about isolated incidents. When you come here and you speak to people, you’re really struck by how this is a way of life: a low-level conflict. People feel intimidated, under threat. And at the end of that really you have two sides, both seeking control of the same land.”

By now at the half-way point in his report, Bateman told viewers that “the village [Yasuf] looks out onto several settlements – and they’re growing” and then went on to interview an Israeli couple from Tapuach West, promoting the BBC’s partisan international law mantra en route.

“Rivka took me to see the settlement outpost her family built. Like most Israelis she rejects the view of international law that sees the settlements as illegal. She is among the most ideological supporters. But an anti-occupation group recently petitioned the Israeli courts and her home was demolished.”

While Bateman did not identify that “anti-occupation group”, he was apparently referring to the political NGO ‘Yesh Din’. He told viewers:

“They talk of a constant threat. Late last year there was a surge of violence in the West Bank. In a matter of months five Israelis were killed by Palestinians and alleged attacks by settlers saw at least two Palestinians die.”

Between October and December 2018 inclusive five Israelis were murdered in terror attacks perpetrated by Palestinians. We have been able to find record of one Palestinian fatality during the same period of time. Bateman did not inform viewers that a suspect has been charged in connection with that case.

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC has a long record of under-reporting Palestinian terrorism, particularly when attacks do not result in fatalities. In 2018 the BBC News website reported at most 30.2% of the terror attacks that actually took place and 93.3% of the resulting fatalities. Throughout the whole of 2017 the BBC News website reported a total of fourteen incidents – i.e. 0.92% of the terror attacks which actually took place –  and 89% of the total fatalities.

Quoting anonymous “campaign groups” but providing no evidence to support the claim, Bateman closed his report by telling viewers that:

“Settler violence reinforces the goals of the state, say campaign groups, to take as much land as possible.”

He did not bother to clarify that such attacks have long been publicly and repeatedly condemned by Israel’s prime minister, leaders of the communities in Judea & Samaria, security officials and the Israeli public.

Bateman concluded with two further claims:

“Israel routinely says it investigates these cases but conviction rates are extremely low.”

“…the settlement movement is arguably enjoying more support than ever…”

The most notable aspect of this “not to be missed” report from Tom Bateman is, however, the part of the story that he chose to leave out. Throughout the entire item, no effort was made to inform BBC audiences of the differences between the policies of the Israeli authorities – investigations, arrests, and legal action taken against those suspected of carrying out attacks – and the approach of the Palestinian Authority to those of its citizens carrying out violent attacks against Israelis: glorification of the acts and their perpetrators and financial rewards

That is obviously a very serious omission, particularly given that the BBC’s record of reporting on PA incitement, glorification of terrorism and payment of salaries to terrorists means that audiences would be unlikely to be able to fill in the gaps for themselves.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

Reviewing BBC News website follow-up reporting on terrorism in Israel

 

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – June 2019

Throughout the month of June 2019, sixteen written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which also appeared on other pages and three of which were carried over from the previous month.

(dates indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

One report concerned security issues:

Israel strikes Syrian targets near Golan Heights (2/6/19 to 7/6/19) discussed here

Five items related to political/diplomatic aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict – specifically the economic workshop in Bahrain:

Middle East peace plan: Jared Kushner proposes $50bn fund (22/6/19 to 24/6/19)

Is peace between Israel and Palestinians out of reach? Yolande Knell (24/6/19 to 3/7/19) discussed here

Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ falls flat in West Bank Yolande Knell (25/6/19 to 2/7/19)

Kushner urges Palestinians to embrace ‘opportunity of century’ (25/6/19 to present)

Israel-Palestinian conflict: Kushner says peace can bring prosperity (25/6/19 to 27/6/19)

One article had a historical theme:

Last known survivor of Sobibor death camp uprising dies aged 96 (4/6/19 to 7/6/19)

One report concerned internal Palestinian affairs:

Anger at Palestinian ministers’ secret 67% pay rises (6/6/19 to 12/6/19) discussed here

Of eight reports concerning Israeli affairs, three were about internal politics:

Israel’s Netanyahu: Is ‘King’ Bibi’s crown slipping? Tom Bateman (30/5/19 to 19/6/19)

Israel to hold fresh election as Netanyahu fails to form coalition (29/5/19 to 2/6/19)

Israel: Amir Ohana becomes first openly gay minister (6/6/19 to 11/6/19) discussed here

One report concerned a legal/criminal case:

Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara admits misusing public funds (16/6/19 to 19/6/19) discussed here

One report related to an Israeli national holiday:

Clashes break out at Jerusalem holy site Tom Bateman (3/6/19 to 14/6/19) discussed here

One report concerned internal security:

Russia denies role in Israeli airport GPS jamming BBC Technology (27/6/19 to 1/7/19)

One report related to planning:

Golan Heights: Israel unveils ‘Trump Heights’ settlement (16/6/19 to 18/6/19) discussed here and here

One report can be classified as miscellaneous:

I never met my daughter’s dad – she was his dying wish Sarah McDermott (22/5/19 to 5/6/19)

While BBC audiences saw eight reports concerning Israeli affairs, just one report on internal Palestinian affairs appeared throughout the month.

In the six months between January and June 2019 the BBC News website has published sixty-seven articles pertaining to Israeli affairs and just eight reports on internal Palestinian affairs.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – May 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – April 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – March 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – February 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2019

PLO terminology returns in BBC Jerusalem Day report

As we have had cause to note in the past, the BBC Academy’s style guide includes instruction for the corporation’s producers and journalists on the correct terminology to be used when reporting on Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.

That guidance was generally followed in the past but in late 2014, audiences began to see the employment of different terminology by some BBC journalists. The term ‘al Aqsa Mosque compound’ – or even just ‘al Aqsa Mosque’ – was employed to describe what the BBC previously called Haram al Sharif with increasing frequency from November 2014 onward. 

So how and why did that deviation from the BBC’s recommended terminology come about? The change in language first appeared in November 2014. At the beginning of that month – on November 5th – the PLO put out a “media advisory” document (since removed from its website) informing foreign journalists of its “[c]oncern over the use of the inaccurate term “Temple Mount” to refer to Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem”. That directive is of course part and parcel of the tactic of negation of Jewish history in Jerusalem used by the PLO and others.

On June 3rd visitors to the BBC News website saw yet another example of that BBC adoption of PLO terminology in the synopsis to a filmed report by the Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman titled “Clashes break out at Jerusalem holy site”.

“Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers broke out at Al Aqsa mosque compound, the holy site also known to Jews as Temple Mount.” [emphasis added]

What that synopsis describes as “clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers” [sic] was actually violent rioting initiated by people who certainly were not ‘worshipping’ at the time.

“Following the report that Jews will be allowed to enter the Temple Mount for Jerusalem Day, riots broke out on the Temple Mount on Sunday, according to the Police Spokesperson’s Unit.

The commander of the Jerusalem district, Maj.-Gen. Doron Yedid, ordered the police to enter the Temple Mount and take care of the rioters.

As the police attempted to enter the place, Arab worshipers began throwing stones, chairs and other objects at the forces. The forces responded with riot dispersal means.”

The report itself opens with similar terminology promoting the notion that the violence ‘broke out’ all by itself and with no account of what the rioters actually did. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

“Clashes broke out at one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers. The site is holy to both Jews and Muslims. Palestinians were angered by this Jewish visit to the compound. It came on a day of high tensions.”

Audiences were not told that Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism or that under existing agreements, while non-Muslims have the right to visit the site, they do not have equal prayer rights there. The report continued:

“Later in the day, outside the walls of the Old City…

Bateman: “This is a pretty potent mix of religion and nationalism for these Israelis. They’re just passing through Damascus Gate into the Muslim quarter of the Old City, populated with Palestinian shops and homes. The message from these people is that the whole of Jerusalem belongs to Israel. Of course the Palestinians they’re about to walk past think very differently.”

Man [voiceover] “What’s happening in Jerusalem today is a robbery of Jerusalem. If this is the capital of Isreal [sic], why do you need all these forces to show everyone that this is your undivided capital.”

The use of the term ‘Isreal’ in the subtitles is either a grave spelling error or promotion of a term which is frequently used by anti-Israel activists to negate the country. The report went on:

“The parade is known to Israelis as the ‘March of Flags’. It celebrates Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in the war of 1967.”

Bateman then showcased one of the participants who presumably gave him the answer he was looking for.

Bateman: “What do you think of these Palestinians here watching people go past?”

Woman: “We don’t have this country, Palestine. Only Israel. The Palestinians can live with us. It’s good but it’s [us] who own the country.”

Bateman’s own retort to the woman was not shown in the subtitles.

Bateman: “You get a real sense of the confrontation at a moment like this. The Israelis dance with flags and the Palestinians are being stopped behind lines of police.”

The report ends:

“The march ends at the Western Wall…the holiest site at which Jews can pray. Israelis couldn’t access it for two decades before the war of 1967.”

Remarkably, this report on the topic of Jerusalem Day – the day marking the reunion of Jerusalem – avoided telling BBC audiences that the reason Israelis couldn’t “access” the Western Wall “for two decades” was because Jordan had belligerently invaded and occupied the area, ethnically cleansing Jews from the Old City in the process.

 

BBC Radio 1 ‘Newsbeat’ Gaza special – part two

The first part of the ‘Newsbeat’ fifteen-minute “special from Gaza” aired on BBC Radio1 and BBC Radio 1 XTRA on May 14th was discussed in part one of this post and there we saw how the programme’s target audience of 16 to 24 year-olds in the UK was fed an often inaccurate and highly partial version of the history of the Gaza Strip.  

The programme continued with presenters Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney – ostensibly in the region to cover the Eurovision Song Contest for ‘Newsbeat’ – bringing in the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman.

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

[04:30] Rosney: “This is a Newsbeat special in Gaza – a Palestinian territory. The BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman is with us as well. Tom, what’s life been like in Gaza over the past decade?”

Bateman: “Well what you’ve just been hearing about in terms of the control of Gaza is something really complicated but Hamas dominates there. And this is an organisation that, to its Palestinian supporters, is the resistance movement to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Of course to Israel and much of the West, they see it as a terrorist organisation.”

Hamas of course does not just object to what Bateman simplistically describes as “Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories”. Hamas objects to Israel’s existence on any territory whatsoever. That very basic fact – without which it is impossible to understand the subject matter of this programme – was not communicated to listeners at any point. Rather, BBC journalists repeatedly misled ‘Newsbeat’ audiences by giving then false accounts of Hamas’ objectives.

Like Kat Collins in her ‘potted history’ heard just minutes before, Bateman also chose to lead his young audience towards the erroneous belief that terrorism is defined by motive rather than action. He continued, failing to make any mention of the role played by the Palestinian Authority in relation to the perpetual electricity crisis, lack of sewage treatment and shortages of medicine in the Gaza Strip. While he failed to mention that the Gaza Strip also has a crossing into Egypt, Bateman made sure to promote the old “open-air prison” mantra.

Bateman: “Since Hamas was elected and then consolidated its grip by force on the Gaza Strip, life there really has slowly deteriorated and you just see this all around. There is grinding poverty, ah…a dirty water supply, you have power blackouts, massive health problems and many young people, I mean, have simply never left Gaza. There’s huge restrictions on freedom of movement. I mean some people you talk to describe it as like living in an open-air prison.”

Rosney: “And it’s been a tense 12 months.”

Listeners then heard a distorted account of the ‘Great Return March’ which actually began on March 30th 2018 rather than a month and a half later when the US embassy in Jerusalem was inaugurated. Adhering to the BBC editorial policy which has been evident right from the start, Bateman portrayed the violent rioting, shooting attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks, arson attacks and border infiltrations which have characterised the ‘march’ as “protests”.

Bateman: “Yes, so what we saw was a year ago around the time that, in a controversial move to the Palestinians, the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Protests began at the perimeter fence by Palestinians. Now they said they were demanding their right to return to the land that is now Israel and also an end – or an easing at least – of that blockade. The protests were seen by Israel as an attempt to breach the fence, to break into Israel and harm Israeli civilians or soldiers. And so we had a lot of violence at the fence; many, many Palestinians killed – shot dead by Israeli troops – and that story really evolved into a series of increasingly violent military flare-ups between Israel and Hamas.”

Bateman made no effort to explain to listeners that the so-called ‘right of return’ promoted by the ‘Great Return March’ is in fact aimed at bringing an end to the Jewish state. Having erased the violent nature of the events from view, he could use the phrase “seen by Israel” to downplay and blur that violence. The fact that the vast majority of those killed during the rioting have been identified as having connections to terror factions in the Gaza Strip was not noted by any of the three BBC journalists and neither was the fact that the same factions are behind the violent events.

Holden: “This is Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney in Gaza. Sixty Palestinians were killed a year ago in that violence and thousands more were injured. But these protests on the edge of Gaza happen most Fridays. There was a flare-up just a few weeks ago.”

Rosney: “Yeah and it means many people need medical treatment which, in a place like this with very poor health care, is tricky.”

Holden: “In Gaza there are clinics that are run by independent humanitarian organisations. We’re off to one now which is set up by Médecins Sans Frontières.”

Listeners heard nothing at all about the political agenda of MSF.   

At that clinic Rosney and Holden interviewed a British doctor working for MSF and two patients who gave context-free accounts of their injuries: “I suddenly was shot by a sniper in my leg” and “they just shot me instantly”.

Apparently ‘Newsbeat’ found it appropriate to promote their nihilistic messaging to young people in the UK, including the 16 year-old male’s declaration that it doesn’t matter if he dies because his mother would have another baby to replace him and the female interviewee’s claim that “whatever happens would be God’s fate” in response to the statement from Rosney “so each time you go to the protests you know that there is a chance that you could be shot”.

Newsbeat also had no problem airing unchallenged statements from indoctrinated youth such as “Our life used to be normal before the Israelis came…” and “we need to liberate our homeland, our country…”.

[09:38] Rosney: “The BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman is still with us. Tom, those people that we just heard from inside the MSF clinic, they were so determined to keep going back to the fence to protest – why is that?”

Bateman: “Well many people have been and I mean as, you know, as you’ve been hearing, some people even though they’ve been shot have said that they will go back to the fence, so there has been a determination I think. On the other hand, when you speak to some people privately, they’ll start to tell you about the real cost involved in terms of lives and injuries with this and some people I’ve chatted to over time have talked about not wanting to go back. But that can be a hard thing for them to say publicly in Gaza. We have seen the scale of the protests really diminish, I think, over the last year or so but one way or another the Palestinians you speak to seem determined to show that they want their rights.”

Bateman’s failure once again to clarify to ‘Newsbeat’ audiences that those so-called “rights” actually mean the destruction of the neighbouring country by means of a mass population transfer and through the use of weapons that the blockade is intended to prevent entering the Gaza Strip means that the topic was presented to listeners in terms that most would sympathise with. Who, after all, can possibly object to people standing up for “their rights”?

Rosney next promoted yet again the false claim that all those Palestinians who became refugees were “forced to flee” and that that only happened after Israel came into being. Listeners heard nothing of the Arab attacks in the six months prior to Israel’s declaration of independence or of the fact that the nascent state was immediately attacked by surrounding Arab countries.

Rosney: “We’ve been hearing that sound a lot in Gaza. It’s the call to prayer for Muslims and right now it’s Ramadan. Those who practice Islam don’t eat or drink between dawn and sunset. Some are actually preparing for Nakba Day – that’s tomorrow – which commemorates the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced to flee from their homes in the war that came after Israel declared independence.” […]

Holden: “So the sun’s just gone down here and if you took the picture right now it is the perfect holiday shot. You’ve got the red-orange glow on the sea in the distance; it’s beautiful. But the buildings here tell a different story. Many have got bullet holes in them. Some are half-finished, some are half-destroyed and many have got graffiti drawn all over them.”

Rosney: “Water’s an issue here as well. There is little rain and the World Bank says the water supply – well it’s just poor. There’s not enough of it and you really, really can’t drink the tap water.”

Holden: “Yeah, you don’t swim in the sea either because around 90 million litres of sewage is pumped into the Med here every day. So 95% of the water around the Strip is polluted.”

No background information on those issues – and no mention of the fact that the problems are not related to Israel – was given to audiences at all.

Rosney: “Now along the beachfront people, well they’re starting to set up food stalls actually. Some are smoking shisha. There’s no alcohol here because of strict rules so no pubs or bars.”

Rosney refrained from clarifying that those “strict rules” are enforced by the Islamist theocracy that violently imposed its rule on the Gaza Strip 12 years ago and Holden next gave more context-free promotion to the BDS campaign:

Holden: “Yeah and there’s probably no big screens that will show the Eurovision Song Contest – the world’s largest live music event – which is taking place just 90 minutes up the coast in Tel Aviv. The first semi-final is actually tonight but there have been calls for boycotts of this year’s contest because it is in Israel and some argue that Israel has violated the human rights of Palestinians.”

Rosney: “We’re gonna talk a bit more about that tomorrow on Newsbeat but we’re gonna stick with music….”

Rosney and Holden then interviewed a 26 year-old rapper – mostly about his wish to leave the Gaza Strip.

“It’s not easy for a human to live in Gaza…”

“You can’t leave Gaza…”

“I can’t make audience here – people just thinking how to eat, how to fight. It’s not a normal life. It’s not human. “

The report closed on a rather odd point.

Rosney: “It’s important to point out that in some ways communication with the rest of the world here is actually pretty good. People have got social media and stuff. They are not cut off from the rest of the world entirely.”

Obviously this fifteen minute-long “Gaza special” from ‘Newsbeat’ fell well short of the BBC’s professed standards of accuracy and impartiality. It completely failed to provide its target audience with the full range of information needed to understand what is clearly a complex topic and instead promoted a simplistic and partisan narrative of poor, deprived Palestinians pluckily fighting for “their rights” in a place that is mostly awful – apart from the nice sunset – but does have “social media and stuff”.

Is that really the standard of reporting that the BBC believes 16 to 24 year-olds in the UK deserve?

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 1 ‘Newsbeat’ Gaza special – part one

BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ gives younger audiences a ‘history lesson’

The BBC’s monochrome framing of Gaza’s chronic utilities crisis