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:

BBC WS radio framing of Israeli PM’s Oman visit

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

 

 

 

 

 

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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.”

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) While Adalah is not the BBC’s most frequently quoted and promoted political NGO, it does appear in BBC content from time to time. David Collier has taken a closer look at one of that NGO’s flagship projects.

“Adalah are an NGO in Israel that claims to promote human rights in Israel in general and the rights of the Arab citizens of Israel ‘in particular’.

Adalah created a database of ‘discriminatory laws’ that has been used as a central pillar for anti-Israel boycott activities (BDS). Adalah’s database is the primary source for one of the three aims of the boycott Israel movement.

These laws are referenced everywhere. In the UN, in every anti-Israel meeting, in many European governments. There is hardly an anti-Israel book that is published that does not reference the list of laws. The list is a pillar of the boycott Israel movement.

Just one problem: The list is little more than a scam.”

2) MEMRI documents some of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah PR campaign against the anticipated US administration peace initiative.

“Even before its terms have been publicized, the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan, known as “the Deal of the Century,” has encountered harsh opposition from the Palestinian Authority (PA), on the grounds that it does not promote peace but seeks to eliminate the Palestinian national identity and the Palestinian state and to topple the Palestinian leadership. Against this backdrop, PA elements have directed personal attacks at the U.S. officials promoting the deal. […]

Harsh criticism against the deal and its proponents was also voiced by Fatah, whose chairman is Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas. Recently the movement announced the launching of “a national campaign to thwart the Deal of the Century.””

3) At the INSS Gallia Lindenstrauss reviews “The Elections in Turkey: Strengthened Ultra-Nationalist Forces and the Possible Impact on Turkish Foreign Policy”.

“In Turkey’s June 24, 2018 elections, incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected for another term, and the ultra-nationalist parties grew stronger. This is significant first and foremost in the Kurdish context, since the nationalists can be expected to be among the main opponents of renewing the peace process with the Kurdish underground. This will also have extensive repercussions on Turkish foreign policy toward Syria and Iraq, and as such, on Turkey’s relations with the regional and global powers.”

4) At the Times of Israel Ari Ingel discusses “Israel, Gaza, and International Law”.

“Pro-Palestinian commentators and social media activists have been lambasting Israel over the course of the recent Gaza demonstrations for violating international law with proclamations of war crimes and human rights violations.

While a law degree apparently comes free with every twitter account, much of this talk is mere bluster with no foundation in the actual law itself, but rather, espoused with an intention to falsely vilify Israel and its leaders in the court of public opinion.” 

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC has produced an assessment of “Hamas’ new policy towards Israel“.

“On March 30, 2018, the period of three and half years (since Operation Protective Edge) of relative quiet along the Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip came to an end. That period was characterized mainly by a drastic reduction in the scope of rocket fire attacking Israel, unprecedented since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. […]

In ITIC assessment, Hamas’ policy of restraint was the result of a series of strategic considerations which had influenced the Hamas leadership over a long period of time. […]

In retrospect it appears that during the second half of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 the influence of those considerations on the Hamas leadership lessened: the deterrence Israel achieved in Operation Protective Edge continued to exist, but eroded over time (a process that occurred after other large operations in the Gaza Strip); Hamas’ motivation to gain time to construct a tunnel system penetrating into Israel weakened in the face of Israel’s operational and technological solutions; the difficult economic situation in the Gaza Strip, to which the PA sanctions contributed, created the need to find a direction for the Gazans to channel their rage and frustration. In addition, the attempts to effect an internal Palestinian reconciliation failed and the relations between Hamas and Egypt did not significantly improve. Apparently all of the above led Hamas to the conclusion that its post-Operation Protective Edge policy had exhausted itself and was increasingly less beneficial.”

2) At the INSS Yoel Guzansky and Oded Eran take a look at “The Red Sea: An Old-New Arena of Interest“.

“The Red Sea, and particularly its southern section surrounding the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, has in recent years become the site of competition and struggle among regional actors and superpowers alike. In addition to the states along the coast of the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa, the US, China, Turkey, and Iran – which is involved in the war in Yemen – have a presence there. Sub-state actors, such as the Islamic State organization, al-Shabaab in Somalia, the Houthi rebels, and al-Qaeda in Yemen, are also active in the region. In the meantime, there have been no disruptions to Israeli shipping and flight paths, which connect Israel to the Indian Ocean, the Far East, and Africa.”

3) At the JCPA Pinhas Inbari documents how “Erdogan’s Turkey Intensifies Involvement in Gaza and Jerusalem“.

“Turkey, under the charismatic leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is intervening in many places throughout the Middle East. In each locale, it takes care to unfurl the Turkish flag literally.

However, Turkey’s public involvement in Jerusalem appears to be more public and striking because Jerusalem is more important to Turkey than other places in the region.

Turkey has shown great interest in both Gaza and Jerusalem. It is interested in Gaza because Gaza is ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, Hamas, which Turkey wishes to bring under its wing, and it is interested in Jerusalem to facilitate the “saving of al-Aqsa.””

4) Matthew Brodsky explains why he supports the recent US decision to leave the UN Human Rights Council.

“Of course, it is easy to conclude that the problem with the clown car isn’t the car; it’s the clowns riding in it. Sure enough, the current clowns on the UNHRC don’t bode well for the protection of human rights. They include Qatar, Congo, Venezuela, China, Cuba, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Burundi. If that isn’t mind-bending enough, the UN’s forum for disarmament, which produced the treaty banning chemical weapons, is currently headed by none other than Syria. So it is possible to blame both the clowns and the cars that enable their behavior.”

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at Turkish operations in northern Syria and Iraq.

“As the earliest and most consistent supporter of the Syrian Sunni rebellion, the Turkish leader stood to appear humiliated by the final eclipse of their cause. The Russians, by permitting the Turks and their rebel foot soldiers to enter Afrin, have allowed Erdogan to salvage some dignity from his situation. In affording him this concession (against the will of the Assad regime), Moscow has served its broader goal of drawing the Turks further away from their already severely eroded alliance with the West.”

2) Palestinian Media Watch has details of the PA’s payment of salaries to terrorists under its new budget.

“In the same week that the United States passed the Taylor Force Act, which cuts off nearly all US aid to the Palestinian Authority if it continues paying salaries to terrorist prisoners and allowances to families of terrorist “Martyrs,” the PA publicized the main parts of its 2018 budget. In open defiance of the US, other donor countries, and Israel, the PA’s new budget shows it is continuing to reward terror. The amount the PA has budgeted to spend on the two categories that reward terror (salaries to prisoners and allowances to families of “Martyrs” and wounded) is 7.47% of the total operational budget. The amount equals 44% of the funding the PA hopes to receive in foreign aid in 2018, which is 2.79 billion shekels according to the budget.”

3) At the Tablet Liel Leibovitz discusses the background to the ‘Great Return March’.

“Having withdrawn from the strip in 2005, Israel no longer has any territorial claims on Gaza; but Gaza, as this weekend makes painfully clear, still has territorial claims on Israel. In its continuous attacks on their neighbors to the north, and in its most recent efforts to cross into Israel, Hamas has again proven what the organization’s charter so clearly states, namely that its singular goal is the utter and absolute destruction of the Jewish state. It wants all of the land, not peace or coexistence or any other sensible and reasonable goal, which is why any territorial compromise on Israel’s behalf is nothing more than an invitation to the next, even bloodier conflict.”

4) The same topic is the subject of an article by Eli Lake at Bloomberg View.

“…even if Hamas were committed to nonviolence – which it clearly is not – its aims should horrify Western progressives and conservatives alike. Hamas does not seek a two-state solution; it seeks to replace the world’s only Jewish state with one ruled by fanatics. The title of the weekend’s event, “The March of Return,” is a giveaway. The idea is that every Palestinian family and its descendants have a right to return to the Israeli territory that Palestinians fled during the 1948 war for independence. Such a return would overwhelm the existing Jewish majority.” 

 

Weekend long read

1) The New Statesman carries an edited version of the Holocaust Memorial Day lecture delivered by Howard Jacobson.

“It isn’t that we expected the world suddenly to love us after the camps were liberated. We are wise in the ways of human psychology. We know that people turn against those to whom they feel obliged. It is hard to forgive those you have wronged, and we knew we would not be forgiven the Holocaust. But we thought anti-Semitism itself might take a short break – admit its errors, lick its wounds and go into hiding for a while. Embarrassment, if nothing else, would surely deter most anti-Semites from showing their faces. “Not yet,” we thought they’d say. “Not a good idea after what’s just happened.” What no one could have expected was the speed with which they found a way round any such compunctions, not least by denying that anything had happened at all. Holocaust – what Holocaust?”

2) At the JNS Ben Cohen discusses Poland’s ‘Holocaust complicity’ law.

“If the Polish government’s goal was simply to encourage greater awareness and education about Polish suffering under the Nazis, that would be a laudable goal. But by tying that aspect of Nazi rule so explicitly to the mass enslavement and extermination of the Jews, and by willfully misrepresenting documented evidence of Polish anti-Semitism and collaboration with the Nazis as a slander upon the Polish nation as a whole, they are engineering their own deserved failure, to the detriment of Poland’s people.”

3) The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has published a report on a campaign being run by the Palestinian Authority and others.

“In September 2017 Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the mufti of Jerusalem and the PA, issued a fatwa forbidding the use of the Israeli curriculum in schools in east Jerusalem. He was joined by Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, the imam of al-Aqsa mosque. Sabri Sidam, the PA minister of education, said in December 2017 that his ministry would begin to take practical steps to implement Sheikh Muhammad Hussein’s fatwa. […]

The number of students in east Jerusalem who study the Israeli curriculum is continually rising. According to information from the Jerusalem municipality, during the current school [2017-2018] year 5,800 students in east Jerusalem study the Israeli curriculum, an increase of 14% over the previous year [2016-2017]. […] Meir Shimoni, director of the Jerusalem district in the ministry of education, said that “the surveys we carried out indicate that about 50% of the parents in east Jerusalem want their children to pass the Israeli matriculation exams”.

4) At the JCPA Dr Jacques Neriah discusses Turkey’s military presence in the Middle East.

“While Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East have been under the world’s magnifying glass, Turkey has been silently projecting its military presence in the area to such an extent it has become a source of worry to the “moderate” Arab states and specifically to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Indeed, since its invasion of Northern Cyprus in 1974, Turkey had underplayed its military in the Middle East as a significant military power. The Syrian civil war, the emergence of ISIS, and the proliferation of radical Islam coupled with a president identified with the Muslim Brothers have all been instrumental in appearing to Turkey’s critics in the Arab world as “the new Ottomans.””

Reviewing BBC coverage of the UN GA Jerusalem vote – part three

In part one of this post we looked at the BBC News website’s coverage of the session held at the UN General Assembly on December 21st. In part two we discussed BBC World Service radio’s reporting of that story and in this post we will look at coverage of the same topic on BBC Radio 4, beginning with a programme aired before the vote took place. 

1) ‘PM‘, BBC Radio 4, 21/12/17, presented by Eddie Mair, from 05:22 here.

Mair: “During the campaign that got him elected president, Donald Trump said he wanted to stop sending aid to ‘countries that hate us’. Now he seems close to putting that idea into practice. The catalyst was his announcement that the US would relocate its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Today the General Assembly of the United Nations will vote on a resolution that expresses great regret about the decision and urges other countries not to follow America’s decision to relocate. In advance of the debate the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, warned that the US would take note of countries which voted against America.”

Mair then quoted statements made by Haley and listeners heard a recording of the US president speaking on the same topic before a rather confused Nada Tawfik was brought in to report from the UN.

Tawfik: “This has been a week of high stakes diplomacy on the issue of Jerusalem. It began on Monday when the United States vetoed a draft Security Council resolution that essentially called on President Trump to reverse his decision and to…reverse his decision to move the capital of Israel…ah…to recognise Israel as the…Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, to move the American embassy there. Arab and Muslim countries immediately requested an emergency session of the General Assembly to protest the veto and to put forward another resolution for all 103 [sic – 193] members of the General Assembly to vote on. President Trump and Ambassador Haley have tried to use American muscle rather than diplomacy to convince countries to vote their way.”

Tawfik also told listeners that:

“Here [at the UN], diplomats say […] that it’s clear that the US decision goes against international law and therefore countries should stand up at the UN General Assembly.”

Which countries those unidentified quoted diplomats represent was not revealed by Tawfik but nevertheless, she chose to unquestioningly promote the inaccurate notion that the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “goes against international law”.

In the same item listeners heard the recordings of the statements made by Nikki Haley and the Turkish foreign minister previously aired on BBC World Service programmes as well as a recording of Israel’s ambassador speaking at the UN GA. The item also included an interview with “an expert on international aid” – Cindy Wang – described as having worked at the US State Department under the previous US administration.

Radio 4 also covered the story after the UN GA vote had taken place.

2) ‘The World Tonight’, BBC Radio 4, 21/12/17, presented by Shaun Ley, from 07:30 here.

Ley: “For Christians, Jews and Muslims alike it is a city of deep religious significance. Richard the Lionheart – England’s crusader king – dreamt of liberating Jerusalem during the Crusade but died without achieving his ambition. Palestinians maintain that East Jerusalem should be the capital of the State of Palestine, if such a state ever comes into existence. Israel – the Jewish state – has proclaimed that Jerusalem is its capital: a status not recognised by most of the nations of the world. So this result – today’s vote by the General Assembly of the United Nations – will have come as no surprise to the White House.”

Listeners heard the previously used recording of part of statements made by the US ambassador to the UN followed by the recording of remarks from the Turkish foreign minister also previously aired on other programmes which was introduced by Ley as follows:

Ley: “Turkey, traditionally a US ally, was one of the prime movers behind today’s motion. The Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu hit out against threats from President Trump to punish countries that support the resolution.”

In addition, listeners heard the first segment of the interview with the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the UN broadcast on ‘Newshour’ on the BBC World Service.

Ley then introduced his first guest.

Ley: “Well this evening Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has Tweeted that as a result of the overwhelming vote he expects President Trump to rescind what he called his unfortunate decision. Gulnur Aybet is professor of international relations at Yildiz Technical University – a senior advisor to the [Turkish] president. […] Your president says he expects it to be rescinded but in the end, today’s vote was a symbolic one: the motion has no authority to cause the Americans to change their policy. All it seems to do is sour relations with the US but actually change nothing.”

Aybet: “Well actually I mean the General Assembly vote is non-binding but at the same time, when you look at this it’s an overwhelming majority of various states from very different backgrounds. So you’ve got the entire Muslim states of the UN there. You’ve got the major economies of the world there and all the other permanent members of the UN Security Council. Now it’s really the first time that such a diverse range of states – and some very powerful ones – have actually taken a decision in an international institution against the United States in such an overwhelming way. I think it’s more than symbolic in the way that it challenges the US’ presence on the world arena.”

In response to Ley’s assertion that the UNGA vote “is endorsing a position the UN has had for 70 years” and that the motion will “simply add to the conflict”, Aybet responded as follows:

Aybet: “No, but what the American decision, taken by the Trump administration, is actually a violation of international law. And you mentioned that, you know, this is the status quo that’s happened and the United Nations in various resolutions – Security Council – has called these lands, including East Jerusalem, as occupied territories and required a respect for the special status of Jerusalem. So on one side there’s the international law which, you know, is there – you can’t deny that – and the United States has actually broken with that by making this decision – and which is why there is such an overwhelming response to it – but it’s also pitted the entire Muslim world against it and President Erdogan said this was an absolute red line and that’s precisely why Turkey as the chair of the OIC – the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation…”

Ley: [interrupts] “Pushed very hard to get this motion….”

Aybet: “Well they actually, Turkey…”

Ley: “Lobbied for it, encouraged it.”

Aybet: “…convened an emergency summit of the OIC. And it was the resolution that came out of that summit that laid the basis for this resolution.”

In response to Ley pointing out that both the US president and the US ambassador to the UN had clarified that the US announcement “does not preclude anything that might come out of peace talks”, the Turkish president’s advisor once again made inaccurate – but unchallenged – claims concerning the US announcement and international law.

Aybet:”How can you have a peace process when this decision violates international law on which the peace process is based and the two-state solution which is what the two…what the peace process is all about and the entire [sic] international community which have voted against this decision respects? And how can you have a peace process when you’ve pitted the entire Muslim world against this decision as well, you know?”

While Ley made no attempt to relieve listeners of the erroneous impression promoted by Aybet according to which the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital breaches international law, he did allow her the time to praise her employer’s “leadership […] that will not be forgotten”.

Ley’s second interviewee on the topic was retired US general and former vice Chief of Staff Jack Keane. During that conversation, Ley referred to Nikki Haley’s statement at the UN GA as “kind of almost cash for votes” and “tawdry”.

Like BBC World Service radio, Radio 4 focused extensively on what it chose to portray as “threats” made by the US Administration prior to the UN GA vote and failed to provide audiences with relevant context and historical background to the story. However, as we see, listeners to BBC Radio 4 also heard inaccurate claims concerning ‘international law’ and the US announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in both these programmes.

All the relevant UN Security Council resolutions are non-binding (Chapter VI) and do not create any legal obligations. Neither do they relate to announcements concerning Jerusalem.  

Clearly BBC Radio 4 listeners were materially misled on this issue and corrections are in order.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC coverage of the UN GA Jerusalem vote – part one

Reviewing BBC coverage of the UN GA Jerusalem vote – part two

How did BBC radio frame the US announcement on Jerusalem?

 

Reviewing BBC coverage of the UN GA Jerusalem vote – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the BBC News website’s coverage of the session held at the UN General Assembly on December 21st. In this post we will look at coverage of the same topic on BBC World Service radio, beginning with programmes aired before the vote took place.

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

1) ‘OS‘, BBC World Service radio, 21/12/17, presented by Nuala McGovern, from 00:30 here.

McGovern: “You may have heard me say at the very top of the hour about the United Nations; that they’re preparing to vote on a resolution that would condemn president…US President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, she’s just been speaking.”

Listeners then heard a segment from the US ambassador’s speech which would be repeated in additional BBC radio items relating to the same story.

“The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation. We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.

America will put our embassy in Jerusalem. That is what the American people want us to do, and it is the right thing to do. No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that.

But this vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the UN and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the UN. And this vote will be remembered. Thank you.”

McGovern then brought in the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher, adding her own editorialised comments. 

McGovern: “Ahm…very strong words. I was struck by them listening to Nikki Haley. She is not prepared to apologise in any way obviously for the embassy moving but also seems to be standing firm as in there will be consequences to this vote.”

During the conversation with Zurcher, listeners heard a recording of statements made by the Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at the UN which were also repeated in other programmes.

Cavusoglu: “Before this meeting a UN member state threatened all the other members. We were all asked to vote no or face the consequences. Some are even threatened with the development aid cut. Such an attitude is unacceptable. This is bullying and this chamber will not fall to do that. It is unethical to think that the words and dignity of member states are for sale. Let me put it this way: we will not be intimidated. You can be strong but this doesn’t make you right.”

Later on in the same programme, listeners heard a report from the BBC’s Sally Nabil at the UN.

2) ‘Newshour‘, BBC World Service radio, 21/12/17, presented by Julian Marshall, from 33:04 here.

Marshall: “Members of the UN General Assembly have been threatened by the Trump administration ahead of a vote later today on US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. On Monday the United States vetoed a resolution in the UN Security Council calling on the US to withdraw its recognition. That same resolution will now go before the UN General Assembly and ahead of the vote President Trump has threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that go against the US.”

Marshall later brought in the BBC’s Nada Tawfik who told listeners that “when you speak to member states they do expect about 180 countries possibly out of 193 at the UN General Assembly to support this”. When the vote later took place, fifty-two fewer countries supported the resolution than predicted by Tawfik.

The item also included an interestingly timed report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman (from 37:31) concerning evangelical Christian groups from the US touring Israel, with Bateman claiming that members of such groups had voted for Trump in huge numbers and were one of the reasons – together with “support from Jewish donors in the US” – for the US president’s December 6th announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The BBC World Service also aired an item on the story after the UN GA vote had taken place.

3) ‘Newshour‘, BBC World Service radio, 21/12/17, presented by Tim Franks, from 35:58 here.

Franks: “Not all votes at the United Nations are equal. Ones emanating from the UN General Assembly are non-binding but the effects of today’s vote in the assembly could, at least according to President Trump, be long-lasting. He’s warned that the US will remember those countries which voted for the resolution overwhelmingly passed today. The resolution calls on the US to withdraw its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Mr Trump said that the list of yea-sayers would be recounted next time they come asking for aid or help from Washington.”

Listeners then heard the same recording of the Turkish foreign minister’s statements aired in other programmes as well as part of the statement made by the US ambassador to the UN GA.

Franks next interviewed Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN, Abdallah al-Mouallimi and began by asking him if he was “concerned about that threat from Nikki Haley and indeed from President Trump”.

Al Mouallimi: “Yes I do hope that this vote will be remembered by the United States because it is a vote in which the entire [sic] international community is making the point that the move taken by the United States is not within its right and it’s not appropriate and should not have been made – certainly not at this time and not outside the parameters of an agreed solution to the situation.”

Franks later asked the Saudi Arabian ambassador what he thought about the statement made by Nikki Haley according to which – in Franks’ own words – “the UN seems to have a particular thing about Israel and a particular thing about Jerusalem and its business is skewed towards taking what they hope are free hits against Israel and against Jerusalem”. Audiences heard the following unchallenged response.

Al Mouallimi: “Well the United Nations should have a special thing about Israel because Israel is an occupying power. It continues to occupy the Palestinian land for now more than 50 years. It continues to deny the Palestinians the right for self-determination. It continues to claim Jerusalem as its own capital without regard to the interests of the Palestinian Muslims and Christians in the city and in the area.”

As we see, the BBC World Service was far more preoccupied with informing audiences about what it portrayed as “threats” issued by the United States than it was with providing them with the context to this UN GA resolution and vote. Notably, with the exception of the recording of Nikki Haley speaking at the General Assembly, listeners did not hear the views of either American or Israeli officials on the story. 

 

The BBC WS finds a use for the word terror, misleads on Jerusalem

Listeners to the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour‘ on December 13th heard two items relating to that day’s meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Turkey.

The first item (from 14:05 here) was introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy thus:

“Muslim leaders from around the world have been meeting in Istanbul today to formulate a response to President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The emergency summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation was convened by the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and he called Mr Trump’s announcement illegal and provocative.”

Listeners then heard a voiceover translation of Erdogan’s remarks.

V/O: “With this decision Israel – the perpetrator of crimes such as occupation, siege, illegal settlements, demolishing houses, displacement, property and land grabs, disproportionate violence and murder – has been rewarded for all its terror acts. Although he’s alone, this reward is given by Trump.”

That defamation went completely unchallenged by Coomarasamy who simply went on to say:

“Well we hope to be speaking to our correspondent in Istanbul a bit later in the programme.”

That indeed was the case, with Coomarasamy introducing the second item (from 18:54 here) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “And let’s return to that story in Istanbul and the meeting of the heads of government from Islamic countries around the world, meeting to agree a formula about their response to President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We can speak to our correspondent in Istanbul Mark Lowen now. So Mark, what have they actually agreed?”

Lowen: “Well it was a 23-point statement, Jamie, that was put out by the Organisation for [sic] Islamic Cooperation, calling on countries to recognise Palestine as an independent state and East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestine. Other highlights in the statement included rejecting and condemning Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem as null and void and also calling on the UN to reaffirm the legal status of Jerusalem – i.e. as the capital of two future states.”

Mark Lowen’s claim that the “legal status” of Jerusalem is already defined by the UN as “the capital of two future states” is clearly inaccurate and misleading to audiences. Just days before, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process stated that the city’s status depends on negotiations between the parties concerned.

“The United Nations position was clear, he emphasized.  “Jerusalem is a final status issue for which a comprehensive, just and lasting solution must be achieved through negotiations between the two parties and on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions and mutual agreements.””

Lowen continued:

Lowen: “So this was an attempt by 57 member OIC to come together to bridge differences and to harden its response to Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. The problem is that of course some Muslim leaders are more pro-Trump than others, so for example Egypt and Saudi Arabia only sent ministers to this meeting – not heads of state – possibly to keep the US on board. And really, beyond the kind of tough talk and this call, will there be any kind of hard bite? It’s hard to know really and certainly it is unlikely to change White House policy.”

Coomarasamy: “Yeah, I mean is it simply –as you say – really an attempt to show a united face even if perhaps there isn’t quite one there? And as you say, does this organisation have any sort of track record in influencing global opinion?”

One would have course have expected at this point that listeners would have been told something of the OIC’s persistent anti-Israel activities at the UN and of the relevant aims laid down in its founding charter – but that was not the case.

Lowen: “Not really and you know it’s hard to see this more than a talking shop. I mean yes there will be a call at the UN to…to bring this to the table. The joint communique says that if the UN Security Council does not act to reaffirm the status of Jerusalem, then the UN General Assembly must do so. But when you’ve got the US as a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, you know, anything that would kind of go against White House policy is going to be vetoed.”

Lowen did not bother to inform listeners that UN General Assembly resolutions are non-binding before going on:

Lowen: “So, you know, the US is fairly isolated on this although of course it’s got the support of Israel and according to Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, there are other countries that say they want to follow suit but at the moment none have spoken up. We’ll have to see whether or not this can…the statement today can really give a proper semblance of unity to the Islamic world because up until this conference the Turkish prime minister for example accused some Arab countries of a very weak response and being timid towards the US. So I think there are really certainly divisions among Muslim leaders themselves.”

Coomarasamy: “Do they have any proposals for who might be a broker in a future peace process?”

Lowen’s answer to that question included noteworthy use of the word ‘forthright’ – a synonym for which is ‘honest’.

Lowen: “They’ve called on the UN to replace the US as a peace broker. The protagonists at this conference – Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan who was very forthright: he accused the US of bullying the rest of the world and said Israel was a state of terror – the Palestinian president, the Jordanian king, all saying that the US has lost its position as a sort of impartial peace broker and that the declaration by Donald Trump has disqualified the US as an impartial player in the peace process, so they’ve called the UN now to take its position. We’ll have to see whether the United Nations can come together and respond to it.”

Coomarasamy: “And interestingly they talk about the potential this decision has to increase terrorism – I guess sort of using the sort of language that Donald Trump, they hope, will resonate with him.”

Lowen: “Yeah, I suppose so. I mean they accuse the Israelis of…Turkey’s accused the Israelis of terrorising Palestinians and Turkey said that by supporting Israel the Americans – or the US – is complicit to terror. So I suppose yeah, they’re kind of taking a tone that Donald Trump might listen to or might hear but probably not heed.”

Remarkably the BBC – which of course serially refrains from describing terror attacks on Israelis as terrorism (supposedly in order to avoid appearing “to be taking sides“) and uses the euphemism ‘militants’ to describe terror organisations such as Hamas, the PIJ and Hizballah – obviously has no problem with unquestioning and uncritical repetition and amplification of the Turkish president’s use of the word terror for the purpose of delegitimisation and defamation of Israel.

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