Weekend long read

1) The ITIC analyses last weekend’s attempted infiltration from the Gaza Strip, which the BBC chose to ignore.

“On August 17, 2019, IDF observation posts identified five suspects approaching the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. At least one of them was armed. IDF forces were rushed to the site. An IDF tank and helicopter shot at the suspects before they could cross the security fence (IDF spokesman, August 17, 2019). The attempted penetration came two days after four rockets were launched at Israel in two separate incidents (August 16 and 17, 2019). The Palestinian ministry of health reported that IDF forces had killed three Palestinians and critically wounded another. The five belonged variously to Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Fatah. Some of them had participated in the return marches and were Night Harassment Unit operatives in the northern Gaza Strip. Senior figures in Hamas and the other terrorist organizations publicly praised the operatives who were killed and blamed Israel for their deaths. Senior Hamas figure Isma’il Haniyeh paid visits, well covered by the media, to the families of the dead operatives.”

2) Writing at the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Spyer takes a look at recent moves by the UAE.

“In Yemen on July 8, the Emiratis announced the drawing down of their forces from the country. Abu Dhabi’s soldiers have played the key military role on the ground against the Houthis since 2015.

Having departed the Saudi-led coalition against the Iran-backed Ansar Allah or Houthi insurgency, the Emiratis subsequently threw their weight behind their local allies in Yemen. […]

The UAE has notably refrained from directly accusing Tehran of carrying out the attacks on four tankers in UAE territorial waters which took place in May. This despite there being no other serious candidate for responsibility. And in late July, a UAE delegation travelled to Tehran and, with exquisite irony, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Iranians to “enhance maritime border security cooperation.” “

3) At the FDD Aykan Erdemir discusses recent events in Turkey.

“The Turkish government on Monday removed from office three mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) less than six months into their five-year terms. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who suffered an embarrassing defeat in last March’s local elections, continues to disregard the will of Turkey’s electorate by appointing trustees to replace opposition mayors.

Erdogan first introduced the practice of removing elected mayors from office in September 2016, taking advantage of the state of emergency declared shortly after Turkey’s abortive coup. Together with his ultranationalist allies, the Turkish leader first targeted pro-Kurdish officials, replacing 90 of the 102 HDP mayors with trustees. Shortly after the March 2019 elections, which provided many HDP mayors with a renewed mandate to assume office, Turkey’s High Election Board overturned the election of seven HDP mayors, handing their offices to losing candidates from Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).”

4) At the Times of Israel Abraham Rabinovich recalls “How an Australian sheepshearer’s al-Aqsa arson nearly torched Middle East peace”.

“One of the first stories I was assigned as a young journalist in Israel in 1969 was the trial of an Australian sheepshearer who set fire to the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, an act that threatened to unhinge the Middle East. It remains for me the most vivid story I covered during my 25 years with The Jerusalem Post, a period that included several wars.

August 23 marks the 50th anniversary of the event. The Muslim world assumed that Israel was responsible for the arson and Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal ordered his armed forces to prepare for a holy war. The Arab League met in emergency session, and from distant India came reports of rioting in Muslim areas, with many casualties.”

 

 

 

 

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Weekend long read

1) The Washington Institute for Near East Policy reports the results of an opinion poll.

“A new poll by the Palestine Center for Public Opinion, taken June 27-July 19, indicates that the majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza oppose their leaderships’ preemptive rejection of the Trump administration’s peace plan—despite widespread popular disapproval of the current U.S. president. The survey also shows a dramatic rise in the proportion supporting an enhanced role in peacemaking for the Arab states. More specifically, however, only a minority voice a favorable attitude toward the June regional economic workshop in Bahrain, with many saying they have not heard or read enough about it.”

2) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at Turkish ambitions in the Mediterranean.

“Turkey’s efforts at building influence and power in the neighborhood are not restricted to dry land.  Rather, an important currently developing arena for Turkish assertiveness is the eastern Mediterranean.  This area has been the site of major gas discoveries in Israeli, Cypriot and Egyptian waters in recent years.  Lebanon too is seeking to open exploration in its territorial waters. […]

As Turkey moves further from the west, and closer to alliance with Russia, so it is emerging as an aggressive and disruptive force with regard to gas development in the eastern Meditteranean.  The main area of current concern is that around Cyprus.  Israel, Egypt and Lebanon have all signed delimitation agreements with Cyprus. Turkey refuses to do so.”

3) At the INSS Raz Zimmt asks ‘Has Ebrahim Raisi been Tagged as Iran’s Next Supreme Leader?’.

“Recent months have seen increasing signs that the head of Iran’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, has emerged as the leading candidate to succeed Ali Khamenei as Supreme Leader. Since his appointment as head of the judiciary in March 2019, there have been increasing efforts on the part of Raisi, a conservative cleric, apparently backed by the Supreme Leader, to advance changes in the legal system, improve his public image, and increase his media exposure, particularly in view of his loss in the most recent presidential elections in May 2017. It is still too early to assess Raisi’s chances of winning the battle of succession for the leadership of Iran, which will necessarily be affected by the timing of Khamenei’s departure from the political map. However, his closeness to the Supreme Leader, his experience in the judicial authority, his tenure as chairman of the Astan Quds Razavi foundation (and the Imam Reza Shrine) in the city of Mashhad, and his hardline positions, alongside his increasing efforts to improve his public standing, make him the leading candidate at this stage in the battle of succession.”

4) The ITIC documents how Hamas is “using youngsters as a tool for violence near the security fence in the Gaza Strip”.

“The return march in the Gaza Strip on July 26, 2019, was similar in most respects to the previous marches. About 4,500 Palestinians participated, gathering mainly at the five return camps. As usual, the march was accompanied by violent activities near the border fence carried out by several dozen Palestinians, most of them adolescents and children. The violent activities included throwing IEDs, hand grenades and Molotov cocktails at the IDF. Several Palestinians tried to sabotage the security fence and some crossed the fence into Israeli territory. Videos photographed at the return march clearly illustrated the exploitation of youngsters handled for military missions, endangering their lives. Harm that may come to them serves Hamas as a propaganda and lawfare weapon against Israel, which is represented as Israel’s killing youngsters in cold blood.”

 

BBC News reporting on rocket attacks marred by inaccuracy and omission

On the afternoon of May 4th – some five and a half hours after terrorists in the Gaza Strip had begun launching an intense barrage of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians – the BBC News website published an article headlined “Hostilities flare up as rockets hit Israel from Gaza” and tagged “Gaza border clashes” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

In the hours that followed the article was updated sixteen times. The final version – which will remain on the BBC News website as ‘historical records’ – includes some notable points.

The immediate background to the story was portrayed by the BBC as follows:

“Four Palestinians, including two Hamas militants, were killed on Friday after an attack injured two Israeli soldiers.”

Under the sub-heading “What triggered the latest unrest?” readers were told that:

“The violence began during weekly Friday protests in Gaza against the tight blockade of the area. Israel says this is needed to stop weapons reaching Gaza.

A Palestinian gunman shot and wounded two Israeli soldiers at the boundary fence. The IDF blamed Islamic Jihad for the shooting.”

Those “weekly Friday protests” are of course called the ‘Great Return March’ but the BBC erased Hamas’ involvement in the organisation of the violent rioting which has additional purposes besides protesting “the tight blockade”.

In addition to the sniping incident in which two soldiers were injured (and which prompted the response in which two Hamas operatives were killed) violent rioting and infiltrations which went unmentioned by the BBC took place.

“Some of the demonstrators were rioting, throwing rocks and makeshift explosive devices at soldiers, who responded with tear gas and occasional live fire.

A third Palestinian was killed during riots along the border, the ministry said, identifying him as Ra’ed Khalil Abu Tayyer, 19, adding that 40 protesters had been injured. The IDF said troops had identified several attempts to breach the fence.

Earlier, Israeli troops arrested a Palestinian man who crossed the northern Gaza border security fence, the army said, adding that the soldiers who searched him discovered a knife.”

By way of broader background, the BBC report told readers that:

“The flare-up over the weekend followed a truce agreed last month. […]

The latest violence marks yet another increase in hostilities despite attempts by Egypt and the United Nations to broker a longer-term ceasefire, says the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem. […]

Its [PIJ] statement also accused Israel of failing to implement last month’s ceasefire deal, which was brokered by Egypt.”

Notably the BBC’s report failed to mention of Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket fire on April 30th and an additional attack on May 2nd – neither of which were not reported by the BBC at the time. Interestingly the BBC’s report made no reference to the relevant issue of the connection between these latest attacks and upcoming events in Israel including the Eurovision Song Contest.

The BBC’s report amplified statements and a Tweet put out by Turkish officials while uncritically promoting the false notion of “attacks against civilians”.

“One of the air strikes has hit the offices of Turkish news agency Anadolu, prompting condemnation from Istanbul.”

Failing to clarify to readers that a warning was given prior to the strike to allow evacuation, the BBC went on:

“The Israeli military defended targeting the building in a statement, saying the structure was used by Hamas’s West Bank task force and as an office for senior members of the Islamic Jihad.”

In fact the IDF did not make that statement in connection to the building concerned but in relation to another site. The six-storey building in the Rimal neighbourhood in which the office of the Anadolu Agency was located also housed Hamas’ prisoners affairs office, its general security apparatus and its military intelligence. The BBC apparently did not find it remarkable for a ‘news agency’ to have office space in the same building as a terrorist organisation.  

One of the images used by the BBC to illustrate this article was captioned “Rafah was one of the Gaza locations targeted by Israel”.

The BBC did not bother to inform its audiences that what was targeted was in fact not the town of “Rafah” but a cross-border tunnel dug by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad which infiltrated Israeli territory.  

As we see the BBC’s framing of this story is shaped by the omission of relevant information and marred by inaccuracy.

Related Articles:

BBC News again promotes false claims concerning death of Gaza baby

 

 

 

Superficial BBC News reporting on Muslim Brotherhood

On April 30th the BBC News website published a remarkably superficial report titled “White House to designate Muslim Brotherhood terrorist organisation”.

Despite that headline’s clear suggestion that the issue is already cut and dried, that not the case. The report opens by telling readers that:

“The Trump administration is working to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organisation, the White House said on Tuesday.”

Readers are also told why that is purportedly the case.

“The decision follows a White House visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in April.

Mr Sisi asked US President Donald Trump to make the move, US media said.”

Two paragraphs later, that messaging is reinforced.

“The Trump administration first directed security and diplomatic officials to find a way to impose sanctions on the Brotherhood after a meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Sisi on 9 April, US media report.” [emphasis added]

In fact, as noted by two authors in January 2017 (a week after Donald Trump became president and over two years before Mr Sisi’s April 9th visit):

“The idea of designating the Brotherhood has been kicking around a long time…” 

The article states: [emphasis added]

“On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed the administration is pushing for the designation.

“The President has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern, and this designation is working its way through the internal process,” Ms Sanders said in a statement.”

However, BBC audiences were told nothing of what that “internal process” entails or how long it might take.

They were nevertheless informed of opposition to a process which has yet to be completed, beginning – unsurprisingly – with the Muslim Brotherhood itself.

“In a statement on its website, the Muslim Brotherhood said it would remain committed to its work, regardless of the White House’s decision, Reuters reports.” […]

Readers then heard of domestic opposition:

“The decision has caused a rift between White House officials and Pentagon staff, according to the New York Times.

Though US National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both purportedly support the move, career national security staff, government lawyers and diplomatic officials have raised legal and policy objections.” 

Next came foreign opposition:

“A spokesman for Turkey’s ruling AK Party said on Tuesday that the designation would hinder democratisation efforts in the Middle East and provide a boost to other militant groups in the region, according to US media.”

The BBC did not bother to inform readers of the obviously relevant fact that the AKP is, as the FDD’s Jonathan Schanzer testified before a congressional committee in July 2018, strongly supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Turkey’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) is effectively the Turkish arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkish President and AKP founder Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly supports the movement. That support was most evident during the height of the Arab Spring, when Erdogan apparently believed he could harness the growing political power of the movement under his leadership.

Erdogan dispatched Turkish campaign strategist Erol Olcok to Egypt to help with Morsi’s campaign. Olcok helped Erdogan’s AKP party win eleven elections in Turkey. On September 30, 2012, after Morsi’s victory was secured, Erdogan invited the Egyptian president, along with the Brotherhood-linked Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal to the AKP convention in Ankara. After Morsi delivered a speech at the convention praising Erdogan and the AKP, he announced a $1 billion loan from Turkey to Egypt. In February 2013, Turkey’s then-President Abdullah Gul became the first foreign leader to visit Egypt under Morsi’s government. In 2015, Erdogan further admitted that he provided $2 billion to Morsi at a time when no one else was helping Egypt. Turkey’s support became increasingly strident after the collapse of Brotherhood rule in Egypt. The AKP organized public demonstrations in Turkey in support of Morsi following the coup, and at least 1,500 members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood found refuge in Turkey.”

The BBC’s report goes on to promote and link to a video put out by the Brookings Institution.

The BBC however refrained from informing its audiences of the relevant fact that the Brookings Institution has for years been funded by Qatar and has a branch there. Qatar is of course the country which has long provided the Muslim Brotherhood with both refuge and cash, as also noted by Jonathan Schanzer.

“Qatar is undeniably the world’s most welcoming and generous jurisdiction for the Muslim Brotherhood. The relationship began in the early 1950s when the tiny emirate “provided a lucrative, stable and welcoming platform where Brotherhood members could safely base themselves, recruit fellow members and prosper.” In the 1960s, the Brotherhood began to use Qatar as a “launching pad” for expansions into other jurisdictions, like the United Arab Emirates. Qatar tacitly approved those activities, so long as the Brotherhood continued to be “outward-facing” and did not pose a threat to Doha. […]

As of July 2013, when the Morsi regime collapsed, Qatar had pumped $8 billion in financial aid to Egypt, according to the Financial Times. Qatar today serves as a safe haven for many Egyptian Brotherhood figures. It hosts the Brotherhood’s de facto spiritual guide, Yusuf al Qaradawi, along with other figures like Asim Abd-al-Majid, Wagdy Ghoneim, Ehab Shiha, Ashraf Badr al-Din, and Hamzah Zawbaa. The fact that Doha hosts these figures became one of the main complaints against Qatar from its Gulf neighbors.”

The BBC’s report closes with a typically sanitised cameo of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

“The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, has influenced Islamist movements around the world with its model of political activism combined with Islamic charity work.

The movement was initially intended to spread Islamic morals and good works, but soon became involved in politics, particularly the fight to rid Egypt of British colonial control and cleanse it of all Western influence.

In the first parliamentary elections after President Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow in February 2011, the political party associated with the Muslim Brotherhood ascended to power, winning nearly half the seats in Egypt’s parliament.

Since Mr Morsi’s ousting, thousands of Brotherhood members have been arrested.”

Notably, BBC audiences were told nothing at all about the Muslim Brotherhood’s numerous offshoots outside Egypt – including some already designated by the US such as Hamas.

Whether or not the US administration will eventually designate all or parts of the Muslim Brotherhood remains to be seen but as we see, despite its public purpose obligation “to help people understand…the world around them” the BBC has managed to condense a complex issue into yet another trite item in its ‘Trump behaving badly’ genre. 

 

BBC double standards on disputed territory in evidence again

An article published on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ page on February 13th under the title “Debt misery hits students as dream turns sour in northern Cyprus” provides another example of a double standard in BBC reporting which has been documented here in the past.

Readers saw the location at the centre of the article described as follows:

“…Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, a self-declared republic recognised only by Turkey.” 

“Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the north, in response to a military coup backed by nationalists ruling Greece at the time.

Since declaring independence in 1983, the north has been under international embargo, so it is propped up by Turkey and its currency, the lira.”

“…northern Cyprus is not recognised internationally…”

Readers were also provided with a map:

As has been the case in past BBC reporting on Cyprus (see ‘related articles’ below), the words ‘occupied’ and ‘occupation’ did not appear at all in the report: readers were merely told that northern Cyprus is “Turkish-controlled”. As usual there was no reference in the report to “illegal settlements” or “international law” despite the fact that it was Turkish state policy to facilitate and encourage the immigration of Turkish nationals to the island during the latter half of the 1970s.

In contrast to BBC coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, readers did not find any pronouncements allocating disputed territory to one side or the other in the style of the frequently seen terminology “occupied Palestinian land” and “Palestinian territory” and no mention was made of the presence of Turkish troops in northern Cyprus.

As we have seen in the past, the BBC is able to report on the enduring territorial dispute in Cyprus in a manner which refrains from promoting a particular political narrative. Unfortunately for the corporation’s audiences the same editorial standards are not evident in BBC reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Related Articles:

Not all ‘occupied territories’ are equal for the BBC

When the BBC News website reported an enduring conflict without a narrative

Weekend long read

1) Writing at the New York Times, Matti Friedman explains why “There Is No ‘Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’”.

“There isn’t an Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the way that many outsiders seem to think, and this perception gap is worth spelling out. It has nothing to do with being right-wing or left-wing in the American sense. To borrow a term from the world of photography, the problem is one of zoom. Simply put, outsiders are zoomed in, and people here in Israel are zoomed out. Understanding this will make events here easier to grasp.

In the Israeli view, no peacemaker can bring the two sides together because there aren’t just two sides. There are many, many sides. […]

If you see only an “Israeli-Palestinian” conflict, then nothing that Israelis do makes sense. (That’s why Israel’s enemies prefer this framing.) In this tightly cropped frame, Israelis are stronger, more prosperous and more numerous. The fears affecting big decisions, like what to do about the military occupation in the West Bank, seem unwarranted if Israel is indeed the far more powerful party.”

2) Dr Jonathan Spyer asks “Will Turkey invade north-east Syria?”.

“The announcement by US President Donald Trump on December 19 of his intention to rapidly withdraw US forces from eastern Syria led to expectations of a rapid move by Turkish forces into all or part of the area currently controlled by the US-aligned, Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces.  The precipitating factor that led to Trump’s announcement, after all, was a phone call between the President and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayepp Erdogan.  For Turkey, control by what Ankara regards as the Syrian franchise of the PKK of a large swathe of the 900 km Syrian-Turkish border has long been seen as entirely unacceptable.  The Kurdish dominated SDF are capable and proven fighters.  But without US help, and facing Turkish air power and artillery, they would be able only to resist for a while.  This had been already proven in Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in January, 2018, when Ankara invaded and destroyed the Kurdish canton of Afrin in north-west Syria. […]

For a number of reasons, however, the prospect of an early large-scale entry of Turkish forces into north-east Syria now seems less likely than it did a couple of weeks ago.”

3) Tony Badran discusses “Arafat and the Ayatollahs” at Tablet magazine.

“When Yasser Arafat arrived in Tehran on Feb. 17, 1979, the first “foreign leader” invited to visit Iran mere days after the victory of the revolution, he declared he was coming to his “own home.” There was some truth in Arafat’s flowery words. Having developed and nurtured a decade’s worth of relationships with all the major forces, from Marxists to Islamists, which had toppled the shah, he had good reason to feel like the victory of the revolution was in some part his own.

Although the heady days of February 1979 would soon give way to tensions, the Palestinians were integral to both the Islamic Revolution and to the formation of the Khomeinist regime. For Arafat, the revolutionary regime in Iran carried the promise of gaining a powerful new ally for the Palestinians. In addition, Arafat saw a chance to play the middleman between Iran and the Arabs, and to encourage them to eschew conflict with each other in favor of supporting the Palestinians in their fight against Israel. Yet it soon became clear that Arafat’s double fantasy was unattainable, and would in fact become quite dangerous to the Palestinian cause.”

4) Belgian Friends of Israel have produced a series of short videos featuring conversations with residents of the area close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

See the additional videos here.

 

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC has published an assessment of “The impact of the withdrawal of the American troops from Syria on the campaign against ISIS“.

“From a military perspective, the end of American activity in Syria is liable to be detrimental to the campaign currently being waged by the Kurdish forces east of the Euphrates against last important ISIS-controlled area in Syria. The blow is expected to be particularly hard if America stops its aerial support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). However, in ITIC assessment, the most serious impact of the American pullout is expected to be its influence on morale and the political situation: the Kurds, who control extensive areas in the northeastern part of the country, feel betrayed and their cohesiveness may be harmed. Thus they can be expected to look for new strategic support, especially from the Syrian regime and Russia. The Kurds’ motivation to continue fighting ISIS may be reduced and they may retreat to the heart of their area of control in northeastern Syria and stop clearing the lower Euphrates Valley of ISIS fighters.”

2) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at the Turkish aspect of the withdrawal of US forces from Syria.

“The contradiction between the western attempt to appease Turkey, and the tentatively emergent strategy vis-a-vis Syria had been apparent for some months. It now looked set to be resolved – one way or the other.

If the US indeed now follows through with the rapid withdrawal of the American military presence in Syria in its entirety, as a number of news outlets have reported and the President appears to have confirmed, then we have an answer. It means that the US has indeed blinked first, and is set on reversing course in Syria – by embarking on a hurried exit from the country. This will be interpreted by all sides as a strategic defeat, an abandonment under pressure of allies, and a debacle.”

3) MEMRI reports on recent criticism of Hizballah in Lebanon.

“Since the parliamentary elections in May 2018, Lebanese Prime Minister and Al-Mustaqbal movement leader Sa’d Al-Hariri has been trying to form a national unity government incorporating all the major political forces in Lebanon, including Hizbullah. His efforts have so far been unsuccessful, however, partly due to steep conditions presented by Hizbullah regarding the government’s makeup, mainly its demand to appoint a Sunni minister from the March 8 Forces, the faction led by Hizbullah. […]

This political crisis, which has been ongoing for over six months, has evoked furious responses from Lebanese politicians and columnists, who accuse Hizbullah of serving Iranian interests at the expense of Lebanon’s, and also of using its weapons to take over Lebanon and of subordinating it to Iranian patronage. The bleak political climate even cast a pall over Lebanon’s 75th Independence Day, marked on November 22, with some calling not to celebrate it because Lebanon is not truly independent. Criticism was also directed at President Michel ‘Aoun and at his son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebral Bassil, both of them Hizbullah allies, for allowing Hizbullah to effectively control the country.”

4) At the JCPA Amb. Alan Baker discusses “Electing the Palestinian Attorney-General to the ICC Nominations Committee for Judges“.

“The election of the Palestinian Attorney-General, Dr. Ahmad Barrak, to serve as a member of the “Advisory Committee on Nominations” of judges of the International Criminal Court, if it were not so serious, could be seen as comical. It cannot but invoke the ancient Latin maxim “ovem lupo commitere,” or in its literal and colloquial version “to set the wolf to guard the sheep.”

This perhaps sums up the acute absurdity to which respected international institutions in the international community, and particularly the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, have descended. Sadly, they have permitted themselves to be abused and manipulated by an irresponsible Palestinian leadership, intent on hijacking international organizations for obvious and blatant political purposes. 

However, the election of a Palestinian representative to the judges’ Nominations Committee, as unwise and ill-advised as it may be, is indicative of a far wider and more serious problem facing the International Criminal Court, with the admission of what purports to be “The State of Palestine” as a party to its Statute.”

 

BBC WS radio continues to promote a non-story

Listeners to BBC World Service radio had already heard the news and current affairs programme ‘Newshourpromoting the notion that Israel had not responded appropriately to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi on October 26th.

A week later, on November 2nd, they heard an entire four-minute item on the same non-story on the same programme.

At the start of the programme presenter James Menendez told listeners:

“…and we’ll hear from Israel as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemns the murder of Jamal Khashoggi a month after his disappearance.

Menendez introduced the item (from 34:02 here) with a remarkable use of the term ‘antipathy‘: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Menendez: “Well Jamal Khashoggi’s murder has of course been met with condemnation from many quarters and today – a month on – the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu added his voice, calling the killing horrendous. Israel and Saudi Arabia don’t have any official diplomatic relations but there’ve been reports of military cooperation because of both countries’ mutual antipathy towards Iran. Indeed Mr Netanyahu also said today that the killing shouldn’t be allowed to lead to upheaval in Saudi Arabia. Sharren Haskel is an Israeli MP from Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party. I asked her whether the prime minister’s response had been appropriate.”

Apart from pointing out Turkey’s record on the imprisonment of journalists, Haskel’s comments throughout the interview reflected those made by Netanyahu and another Israeli minister earlier in the day. Menendez’s framing of the topic was however noteworthy.

Menendez: “Isn’t it strange that it’s taken a month to condemn the murder, whereas others have been much more quick to come out?”

Menendez: “But doesn’t the murder show that Saudi Arabia – and we’ve had President Erdogan saying, you know, this must have been sanctioned at the very highest levels in the kingdom – that they are capable of extreme violence?”

Menendez: [interrupts] “And of course we’ve had, we’ve had, you know, the announcement about the [US] sanctions [against Iran] today. But I’m just interested in Saudi Arabia. Just finally, I mean Mr Netanyahu talked about ‘should be duly dealt with’: what does that mean do you think?”

Menendez: [interrupts] “But should there be sanctions against Saudi Arabia? Should there be sanctions against Saudi Arabia just on this particular case?”

While the BBC’s own record of commenting on the long-standing issue of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia has often left a lot to be desired (see ‘related articles’ below), as we see the BBC World Service is devoting energies to creating and promoting a story about what it has chosen to present as a tardy Israeli response to an as yet unsolved murder.

How that editorial decision contributes to the BBC’s remit of providing its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards” in order to enhance audience understanding of the Khashoggi story is of course unclear.

Related Articles:

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BBC misleads on root cause of lack of equality for Saudi women

BBC Trending’s preposterous International Women’s Day question

BBC silent on Saudi Arabia’s new UN commission seat

BBC Trending, Saudi Arabia and the missing link

BBC News highlights a PR campaign but fails to supply background

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The JCPA has a report on part of the background to a story covered by the BBC last week.

“Deadly riots in Iraq’s southern city of Basra erupted following protests waged by the local population that have been going on since early July 2018. The turmoil worsened after the governor of Basra ordered troops to use live bullets against the protesters. Rioters stormed the provincial government building on September 4, 2018, and set it ablaze.

The cause of discontent is the crumbling and obsolete state of the local infrastructures. Today, the blame is directed mainly against the failing water infrastructure, which is causing plague-like conditions in the local population: according to the news from Basra between 500 to 600 individuals are admitted to emergency rooms daily because of water poisoning accompanied by skin diseases. Some 17,000 intestinal infection cases due to water contamination were recorded, according to Basra health authorities. Hospitals are unable to cope with the flow of the sick, nor do the authorities know how to deal with the spreading diseases and the threat of cholera.”

2) At the INSS Oded Eran takes a look at “The Idea of a Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation, Revisited“.

“In the quest for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the idea of a Jordanian-Palestinian federation/confederation, which has been raised from time to time, has recently resurfaced. In a September 2, 2018 meeting between Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen and a group of Israelis, the Palestinian leader said that the idea was raised by the US team engaged in the effort to renew the negotiations between the parties and formulate a proposal for a settlement. Beyond the major question regarding the Palestinians’ political and legal status in the American proposal, a confederation model, particularly one involving Jordan, the Palestinians, and Israel, creates a possibility for “creative solutions” to issues related to economies, energy, and water. A trilateral framework of this nature may also facilitate solutions that include relinquishing elements of sovereignty for the sake of the confederation.”

3) Jonathan Spyer discusses the situation in northern Syria.

“Before the civil war, Syria’s Kurds were among the most severely oppressed, and among the most invisible minorities, of the Middle East. Numbering between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of the pre-war Syrian population, they were prevented from educating or even naming their children in their native language. A section of the Kurdish population was deprived of travel and passport rights. Some, the so-called maktoumeen (unrecorded), lacked even citizenship and access to education.

The emergence of a de facto Kurdish enclave following the withdrawal by the Assad regime from a swath of the county’s north in 2012 changed all this. The enclave successfully defended itself against an early attempt by the rebels to destroy it. In 2014 the Kurds formed a de facto alliance with the US and the West in the war against Islamic State. This war, along with the regime’s (and Russia and Iran’s) war against the rebels, now is in its closing stages.”

4) The ITIC reports on recent violent power struggles in eastern Syria.

“In August 2018, several cities in the Euphrates Valley witnessed violent clashes between the Syrian army and Syrian militias affiliated with it on the one hand, and Shiite militias handled by Iran on the other. The clashes took place in the region between Albukamal and Deir ezZor, and both sides sustained dozens of casualties. In the background, there were violent power struggles and conflicts on the extortion of money from local residents, mainly by collecting “crossing fees” in return for the use of crossings between the two banks of the Euphrates River. During the clashes, attempts were made to find local solutions to defuse the situation: the militias were supposed to stop running the crossings and the Russian Military Police was supposed to take their place. However, since late August 2018, the clashes stopped and a reconciliation committee was convened in the city of Albukamal, to resolve the conflicts.”

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Dr Denis MacEoin chronicles the UK Labour Party antisemitism story at the Gatestone Institute.

“Mainstream, moderate political parties are normally sensitive to accusations in the media or from the public that threaten to put citizens off voting for them. Labour’s anti-Semitic reputation has been on the front pages of newspapers, has led to a plethora of articles in leading magazines, and has been a deep cause of concern for some two years now. The current British government is in a state of crisis – a crisis that could result before long in a fresh general election in which Labour might hope to win or further increase its vote, as it did in 2017. One might have thought that they might do anything to win voters back by abandoning any policies that might make the public think them too extreme to take on the responsibilities of government in a country facing confusion over its plan to exit the European Union. But this July, they did the opposite by turning their backs on moderation, presumably in the hope that this is where the voters are.”

2) At Tablet Magazine Tony Badran discusses “The Myth of an Independent Lebanon“.

“The reason Hezbollah continues to be able to fly in Iranian planes loaded with weapons straight into Beirut airport has nothing to do with absence of state authority, or lack of LAF capacity. Rather, the theory undergirding U.S. policy, which posits a dichotomy between the Lebanese government and Hezbollah, simply has no relation to the reality of Lebanon. The LAF will never take action to prevent Hezbollah’s arms smuggling, because it will never be asked to by the Lebanese government, regardless of how much we “professionalize” it or build up its capacity.”

3) Dr Jonathan Spyer takes a look at Turkish interests in Syria.

“Idlib is set to form the final chapter in a Russian-led strategy that commenced nearly three years ago.   According to this approach, rebel-controlled areas were first bombed and shelled into submission and then offered the chance to ‘reconcile’, ie surrender to the regime. As part of this process, those fighters who did not wish to surrender were given the option of being transported with their weapons to rebel-held Idlib.

This approach was useful for the regime side.  It allowed the avoidance of costly last-stand battles by the rebels.  It also contained within it the expectation that a final battle against the most determined elements of the insurgency would need to take place, once there was nowhere for these fighters to be redirected. That time is now near.  There are around 70,000 rebel fighters inside Idlib.  The dominant factions among them are Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, (the renamed Jabhat al-Nusra, ie the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria), and the newly formed, Turkish-supported Jaish al-Watani (National Army), which brings together a number of smaller rebel groups.”

4) At the INSS Michal Hatuel-Radoshitzky and Kobi Michael discuss “The End to US Funding to UNRWA: Opportunity or Threat?

“The US decision to cease funding UNRWA is no less than historic. Although the Palestinians view such a step as a serious blow, if it is presented as a necessary step on the path to Palestinian statehood, it has the potential to harbor long term, positive implications. While Israel should certainly prepare for negative scenarios that such a policy move may generate in the near term, it is unwise to cling to the current paradigm that distances the Palestinian leadership’s pragmatic and ethical responsibility for rehabilitating and resettling Palestinian refugees within the Palestinian territories. With staunch Israeli, American, and international incentives and policy initiatives, the US decision to cease funding UNRWA can serve as a wake-up call to the Palestinian leadership and potentially inject new life into the Israeli-Palestinian process.”