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

Earlier this month we saw that the BBC had sent two reporters from the offshoot of BBC News which is the manifestation of the corporation’s belief that 16 to 24 year-olds in the UK cannot consume current affairs without a middleman – ‘Newsbeat’ – to cover the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.

Newsbeat continues the BBC’s Eurovision framing

Context-free amplification of Eurovision boycott calls persists at BBC News

Claim shown to be false a year ago recycled in simplistic BBC backgrounder

In among their Eurovision coverage Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney also managed to produce “a little bit of a history lesson” for Newsbeat’s target audience which was broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1 XTRA on May 13th.

Seeing as ‘Newsbeat’ claims to produce “news tailored for a specifically younger audience”, that eight-and-a-half-minute long item gives us a good picture of what the BBC wants young people in the UK to know about the Arab-Israeli conflict – and what not.

Steve Holden introduced the report (from 06:45 here).

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

Holden: “Shalom from the city of Jerusalem. All this week ‘Newsbeat’ is coming to you from Israel and the Palestinian territories. […] We’re in the Middle East, surrounded by countries including Egypt, Jordan and Syria. It’s a fascinating place but also to some a controversial one, which we’ll talk about soon. We are here because this week Israel hosts the world’s largest live music event, the Eurovision Song Contest.”

By that measure one can only hope that the war in Afghanistan and the military coalition intervention against ISIS will be over by next May, otherwise ‘Newsbeat’ will have to make sure that reporters covering the Eurovision Song Contest in the Netherlands also pop over to Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan as well as several small islands in the Caribbean Sea.

Holden continued:

Holden: “So right now we are in the heart of Jerusalem: its Old City. It is full of market traders, food stalls, so many tourists. And I know this is radio but the smells here are incredible: think a mix of fresh strawberries, all kinds of spices and incense. It is amazing. It’s an organised chaos here; there are so many people but these motorbikes snake down these tiny alleyways and everyone shouts. Think of Jerusalem like a crossroads for religion. It is considered holy for many including Jews, Christians and Muslims. […]

This region is home to both Israelis and Palestinians so gonna give you a little bit of a history lesson now because the British used to rule here years ago when the area was called Palestine. Following the Second World War Israel established its state here. It was a homeland for Jewish people and in the war that followed, when surrounding Arab countries fought that new Jewish state, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes. Now, after another war in the 1960s, Israel captured places that you might have heard of like the Gaza Strip and the West Bank which it still occupies now – places that Palestinians want as their future state. Now those conflicting claims have seen unrest [sic] in this region for decades with each side blaming the other.”

As we see the BBC is not interested in explaining how Britain came to “rule…the area” or in telling audiences about the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine. Relatedly, the word ‘the’ is missing from Holden’s portrayal of Israel – actually a homeland for the Jewish people. As is so often the case in BBC content, Holden’s portrayal leads listeners to the erroneous belief that the displacement of Palestinians took place only after Israel declared independence on May 14th 1948 and the Arab attacks which followed their rejection of the Partition Plan in November 1947 are erased from view. Having also failed to provide any context concerning the Six Day War, Holden went on to describe nearly 700 attacks with military grade projectiles against Israeli civilians in two days in early May as “violence…in the Gaza Strip”.

Holden: “Here with us this week is the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman who is based in Jerusalem. Ah…violence flared up very recently in the Gaza Strip which is about 90 minutes from here. Explain what happened.”

Bateman’s explanation included the BBC’s usual euphemism for terrorists and failed to clarify that the two Israeli soldiers were on the Israeli side of the border when shot by a Palestinian sniper.

Bateman: “There were militants in Gaza who really control the Gaza Strip. They shot at two Israeli soldiers, wounding them. Israel then fired back and two militants were killed in an air strike. There were then two days of very intense violence that followed. 700 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel that killed four people in Israel. The Israelis carried out wave after wave of air strikes against the Gaza Strip – in response, they said – and 25 Palestinians were killed. And really the context to all of it is that the Palestinians in Gaza say they want an easing of the blockade that Israel says it carries out for security reasons. The Israelis say, well look, they just want calm on the boundary.”

Bateman’s description of Israeli air strikes as being “against the Gaza Strip” is of course inaccurate – the targets were terrorist assets and installations. His claim that “25 Palestinians were killed” does not inform listeners that at least 74% of them were identified as terrorist operatives or members of the terrorist organisations. Bateman’s portrayal of what “Palestinians in Gaza say they want” of course does not help the BBC’s “younger audiences” understand that what Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad want is to eradicate Israel and that is why counter-terrorism measures including “the blockade” are in place.

Holden: “Now world governments have been trying to stop that from happening for years. What’s the latest?”

Notably Bateman’s portrayal of the two-state solution follows the usual BBC policy of ignoring the all-important part of the formula: ‘two states for two peoples’.

Bateman: “Well the formulation for peace really from the international community for many years has been something called the two-state solution and what that would really mean was you have the State of Israel living in peace and security alongside an independent Palestinian state so the Palestinians would have their own country and the right to run that. What we’re gonna get, in the next few weeks it looks like, is a new plan from the Trump White House in America. President Trump he says he wants to do the deal of the century – the ultimate deal, he’s called it – between Israelis and Palestinians. Now the Americans say it requires new thinking; all the ideas in the past have simply failed. But there are critics already of this, including the Palestinians and their leadership who say they won’t talk to the Americans over all of this. They think the plan is gonna be biased in favour of Israel.”

Holden: “And we’re starting this week in Jerusalem. It’s a city that is complicated. It’s got a very complex history.”

Erasing the nineteen-year Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem from the picture even while referring to its effects, Bateman also failed to provide any context concerning the Six Day War.

Bateman: “You have here two very distinct populations so in the west of the city you have Jewish Israelis. In the east of the city largely you have Palestinians, Arabs. There was a time when the city was very divided; literally there was barbed wire and concrete walls running across the centre of it. When Israel captured it in that war you mentioned in the 1960s they took the whole city and since then they’ve claimed it as what they call their eternal, undivided capital. Now Palestinians in the east don’t want that. They want the east to be the capital of their future state and so it remains a city whose future is in question and really one of the most contested places on earth.”

Holden then introduced a report from his colleague Daniel Rosney who went on walk about in Jerusalem on Independence Day to do vox pop interviews.

Rosney: “This is Damascus Gate: one of the entrances to the Old City but it’s also one of the ways that you get to the east of the city where many Palestinians live. Around here there are Border Police with big guns and they sit in booths. For Israelis this keeps the city undivided but for Palestinians this is the face of their occupation.”

Actually, for Israelis those Border Police officers are defence against the frequent terror attacks by Palestinians that ‘Newsbeat’ chose to erase from this report entirely. Rosney was apparently surprised that residents of the eastern part of the city were not celebrating Independence Day.

Rosney: “Back outside and you can see that in East Jerusalem some of the roads just aren’t as good as they are in West Jerusalem and it’s not got that same celebratory vibe today.

Referring to one of Rosney’s interviewees, Holden closed the report with another misrepresentation of when and why some Palestinians became refugees.

Holden: “As we just heard in Daniel’s report, Rajid [phonetic] wasn’t celebrating Israel’s Independence Day but later this week he will mark Nakba Day remembering the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians forced from their home after Israel declared independence. More on that tomorrow when we’re going to be in Gaza hearing from those directly affected by the conflict.”

Apparently as far as ‘Newsbeat’ is concerned “those directly affected by the conflict” do not include the residents of southern Israel targeted by thousands of missiles over the years or the many thousands of Israelis impacted by other types of Palestinian terror attacks.

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BBC’s Tim Franks promotes falsehoods in ‘peace plan’ reports – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, listeners to BBC World Service radio on May 20th heard two long reports from Tim Franks in two separate editions of the ‘Newshour’ programme.

In the first report – aired in the programme’s afternoon edition (from 14:05 here) – listeners heard that despite increased access to prayer services at the al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, the security measures employed were “racist” and “discrimination”. Franks also failed to clarify to audiences that changes in “freedom of movement” occurred because of Palestinian terrorism. After having interviewed two Israelis both retired from public life, Franks concluded his report about the as yet unpublished US peace initiative with an interview with a Palestinian minister.

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

Franks: “Ahmed Majdalani is the Palestinian minister for social development here in Ramallah. Aren’t he and his colleagues just running out of space and leverage?”

Majdalani is also Secretary-General of a small faction called the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (which uses a logo that erases Israel) and PLO Executive Committee member.

Majdalani: “No because the Palestinian leadership until now have the veto.”

Franks: “So you’re rejecting this deal before you even know what’s in it.”

Majdalani: “Look, you can see what the American implement until now. Jerusalem as the capital for Israel started this…this deal. The United States started to implement his deal before submit his document. If the Palestinian leadership say no, there is no Arab country – [not] one Arab country – he will be partner to this deal. And after that you see the position of the international community.”

In contrast to that claim, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have said they will send delegations to the summit in Bahrain next month. Franks closed his report as follows:

Franks: “Defiance from the Palestinian minister. No-one here – how many times over the years have I said this – but no-one here is predicting a quick breakthrough. Some are even doubting whether President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner will ever present his plan. But remember: when people talk about the status quo here, they don’t mean things remaining the same. Faith in a two-state solution is only diminishing.”

By the time the May 20th evening edition of ‘Newshour’ came around, Franks’ report had become the lead item (as well as longer) and it was introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy (from 00:09 here) thus:

Coomarasamy: “Can a catchy slogan breathe life into a moribund Middle East peace process? There are now not one but two slogans associated with the Trump administration’s efforts to get Israelis and Palestinians back around the table. On Sunday the White House announced that its long-trailed ‘deal of the century’ would be accompanied by a peace to prosperity workshop in Bahrain next month. Today, Palestinian officials announced that they wouldn’t be attending that economic conference. In case you’re wondering, Newshour’s Tim Franks is not a no-show today. He’s in Jerusalem and he told me why the Palestinians aren’t going.”

Franks: “Well James, they’re in a blind fury about the Americans right now. I’ve had one very senior Palestinian official using words I’m not allowed to say on air about the Trump administration moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem. Well that was one thing that hacked them off. Closing the PLO office in Washington, another. Cutting funding to the Palestinian refugee agency. The Palestinians just think that the US are no longer honest brokers.”

Franks made no effort to clarify to listeners that the Palestinians actually brought the closing of the PLO office in Washington upon themselves.

Franks: “So, yes, you’re right: at the moment moribund sums up the state of the peace process. But at the same time there’s a feeling the landscape may be shifting with some Arab states seeing their regional interests align with Israel’s. The Israeli prime minister talking about annexing parts of the West Bank – he did that just before the election last month – despite the rest of the world viewing the West Bank as occupied territory. So how is this all playing among Israelis and Palestinians? Let me take you first just south of where I’m speaking to you from, Jerusalem, into Bethlehem.”

Listeners then heard a repeat of Franks’ earlier report (apart from his closing comments) – including this:

Franks: “It’s Friday, it’s just gone noon, it’s Ramadan and this is one of the main checkpoints in Bethlehem. It’s rammed with men trying to get to al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem – very short distance away – in order to pray.”

Franks: “How long have you been waiting? Good grief! So you’ve been waiting seven and a half hours.”

Man: “This is, you know, denying people [the] right to get into Jerusalem. Whether they are Muslim or Christian, [it] is racist, it’s discrimination.”

After that repetition of Franks’ earlier report he went on (from 09:03) to bring in another Palestinian interviewee after giving a portrayal of the Palestinian economy which did not include the highly relevant issue of the PA’s prioritisation of salaries for convicted terrorists over the welfare of civilians.

Franks: “But given just how terrible the state of the Palestinian economy is at the moment, how their institutions are creaking and gasping from a lack of funds, why not just go to this US led investment conference next month in Bahrain? It’s a question I put to the spokesman based here in Jerusalem for the main Palestinian Fatah faction. He’s Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad.”

Readers may recall that last year Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad was given a platform by ‘Newshour’ to tell BBC audiences that Palestinians “arrived to this country” 300 years before the Jews – in 650 BC.

Abu Zayyad: “First of all we were not consulted at all regarding the meeting that is supposed to be held in Bahrain. And another thing is that, as we have been saying all the way, that we don’t believe any kind of economic solution for the sake of normalising actually the Israeli occupation of Palestine will bring us anywhere. We’re speaking about the conflict itself; we believe this is a political conflict that needs to be solved by giving the Palestinians the most basic rights that they’re asking for in order to move forward. Then after that, any kind of economic cooperation would come as a second step to strengthen a political solution between the two sides.”

Franks: “It’s not either/or is it? I mean why not accept economic help first and then move to trying to forge a political solution? It’s not…doesn’t exclude the possibility of then negotiating a full peace.”

Abu Zayyad: “Well the interest that is coming out of this American initiated [initiative] is not actually to serve the interests of the Palestinian people which is to end the Israeli occupation of their lands. The real interest out of such a meeting or initiative is to try to normalise the relations between Israel and the Arab countries. We tried other plans before that were more about economic cooperation as to try to build bridges between the Arabs and the Israel indirectly while keeping Palestine on the side and it did not help any side of the conflict or the region itself.”

Franks: “If that’s the case, it must be pretty disheartening for you that all these Arab countries have said that they’re going to turn up at this conference.”

Abu Zayyad: “Well the formal position of the Arab countries have been made clear in the last Arab summit in Tunisia where all the Arab countries stated clearly that they would not accept the deal such as the century deal that the Trump’s administration speaking about if it does not state clearly that there will be an end for the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands.”

Once again Franks failed to clarify to listeners that the relevant part of Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria were never “Palestinian lands” and that they were in fact occupied by Jordan for 19 years until that country elected to attack Israel in 1967.

Franks: “Sure, but are you urging them to boycott this conference in Bahrain as well?”

Abu Zayyad: “Well we have our communication that is ongoing with the Arab countries and other actors and players in the region and internationally and we….”

Franks: “It’s going to be humiliating for you if you don’t turn up and they do and they say we accept the American notion that actually there could be something here in boosting the Palestinian economy.”

Abu Zayyad then brought up the topic of the February 2019 Warsaw Conference.

Abu Zayyad: “Well I want to remind you: there were other meetings. There was the Warsaw Conference just a few months ago and there was a meeting and there were discussions and there were suggestions made by the American administration but they did not change anything on the ground because here also the Arab countries and the world recognises the Palestine Liberation Organisation as the sole and only representative of the Palestinian people that must be [a] side of [in] any kind of negotiation or talks regarding reaching a solution for the conflict. So we don’t feel humiliated. We feel confident that we are united on this matter. We hear statements coming out of senior businessmen and leaders of the Palestinian economic sectors stating clearly that they will boycott this meeting and they will not attend it.”

Failing to inform listeners that the PLO does not include all the Palestinian factions and hence does not represent all the Palestinians, Franks closed his report there.

Remarkably, despite having dedicated two long reports to the topic of the US peace initiative, Tim Franks managed – like many of his colleagues before him also engaged in preemptive framing of that story – to completely avoid salient issues such as the divisions between the Palestinian factions, the fact that some of those factions oppose any resolution of the conflict and Palestinian terrorism.

He did however twice use part of over 21 minutes of airtime allotted to him to steer BBC audiences around the world towards the erroneous view that Israeli security measures are implemented not because of the terrorism he failed to even mention, but because of ‘racism’ and ‘discrimination’.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Tim Franks promotes falsehoods in ‘peace plan’ reports – part one

BBC News report on US closure of PLO mission fails to adequately inform

Context lacking, inaccuracies let slide in BBC WS coverage of PLO mission closure

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

BBC Monitoring’s Warsaw Summit hashtag ‘research’ gets mixed reception

 

 

 

BBC News plugs PA rejection of US peace initiative

On May 17th the BBC News website published an article headlined “US Israel-Palestinian peace plan ‘a surrender act’ – Palestinian FM” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

The article is based on a speech given by Riad Malki at an event organised by the Chatham House think tank on the same day.  

“The Palestinian foreign minister has branded the anticipated US plan for ending the Israel-Palestinian conflict an unacceptable “surrender act”.

Riad Malki said the plan that Donald Trump calls the “deal of the century” was in fact “the consecration of [Palestinians’] century-old ordeal”.”

The BBC’s account of Malki’s speech circumvents the majority of his falsehoods and offensive remarks, with one exception: [emphasis added]

“Speaking at Chatham House think tank in London, Mr Malki said all the indications were that “this [US] administration is preparing to give its stamp of approval to Israel’s colonial policies” [punctuation in the original]

The BBC found it necessary to ‘contextualise’ those remarks as follows:

“The Palestinians often describe Israeli settlement and other activity in the occupied territories as a form of colonialism, a characterisation which Israel strongly rejects.”

The BBC did not however find it necessary to explain to its audiences why that description is not correct and how it is invoked for political purposes.

As is the case in much BBC reporting relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict, readers found the usual BBC mantra on ‘international law’ and the inevitable erasure of all history before June 1967.

“Israel has built about 140 settlements, home to more than 600,000 Jews, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since it occupied them in the 1967 Middle East war.

Palestinians claim the territories for a future Palestinian state.

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

Near the beginning of the article readers were correctly told that:

“No confirmed details have been revealed of the plan, which Washington says could be unveiled next month.”

Despite that, the BBC had no qualms about later amplifying what are clearly no more than speculations on Malki’s part.

“Mr Malki said the Trump administration’s plan offered “no independence, no sovereignty, no freedom and no justice – and if [the US] do not think that this situation will have an impact on the future of Israel and the region one way or another, they are the ones that are delusional and not us”.”

In paragraphs six and seven of this article the BBC recycled some very problematic framing that it has been promoting for the past two and a half years.

“It is unclear whether the plan will be based on the so-called “two-state solution” – a long-standing formula for resolving the conflict by creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with Jerusalem a shared capital.

The Palestinians and most of the international community support this approach in principle, while the Israeli leadership is cooler towards it.”

In addition to avoiding the obviously inconvenient fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected offers based on the two-state solution which the BBC claims they “support”, the BBC’s implication that there is one unified Palestinian voice which supports the two-state solution is clearly inaccurate and misleading.

Factions such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas – which the BBC repeatedly reminds us won the majority of the popular vote the last time elections were held – obviously do not support the two-state solution or any other formula short of the destruction of Israel. Other factions, including the PFLP for which Malki was formerly spokesman, set themselves up as ‘opposition’ to the Oslo Accords negotiation process at the time.  

In addition, the BBC’s wording does not inform readers that an essential part of the two-state solution is the concept (repeatedly endorsed by the Quartet) of ‘two states for two peoples’ – a definition which would require Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state – and that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have repeatedly refused to do so.

The article’s claims concerning ‘East Jerusalem’ conceal the fact that – as the BBC itself reported in 2003 – the text of the ‘Roadmap’ compiled by the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia (the Quartet) defines the two-state solution as including:

“…a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem that takes into account the political and religious concerns of both sides, and protects the religious interests of Jews, Christians, and Muslims worldwide…”

Given that it rejected complaints on this issue over two years ago, we should of course not be surprised that the BBC continues to promote its inaccurate narrative concerning Palestinian support for a two-state solution (along with a portrayal of entirely passive Palestinians devoid of agency or responsibility) as part and parcel of its framing of anticipated events relating to the ‘peace process’.

Related Articles:

BBC News silent on Abbas’ rejection of Jewish state

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

BBC News website’s explanation of the two-state solution falls short

BBC Complaints: inaccurate portrayal of Palestinian leadership is not a ‘significant issue’

 

 

 

 

 

An overview of the BBC News website’s 2019 election coverage

As we saw in an earlier post the BBC News website published fifteen reports relating to the 2019 general election in Israel between the date of its announcement and the commencement of polling.

As has been the case in previous years, the vast majority of the contending lists were totally ignored in that coverage. Most of the BBC’s attention was once again focused on the right of the political map with the exception of the Blue & White Party.

Of the seven contenders featured in a BBC backgrounder about the election’s “key candidates”, three (Naftali Bennet, Ayelet Shaked and Moshe Feiglin) failed to secure any seats at all in the Knesset and one (Avi Gabbai) got just six seats.

The day after the election – April 10th – the BBC News website published two additional articles:

Israel election: Netanyahu set for record fifth term

Israel election: ‘Bibi the magician’ pulls off another trick  by Lyse Doucet

While audiences saw significantly fewer interviews with Palestinian commentators than in previous years, those two reports nevertheless revived the favoured BBC practice of framing Israeli elections  in terms of their potential effect on ‘the peace process’.

The first article included a section titled “What does it mean for the peace process?” which began by whitewashing terrorists’ rocket attacks on Israeli civilian communities.

“Recent weeks have seen tensions flare between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, and US President Donald Trump is expected to publish his plan which aims to solve Israel’s long-standing conflict with the Palestinians soon.”

Readers then saw a portrayal of the two-state solution which (as has been BBC practice for over two years) promotes the Palestinian interpretation of that term.

“Many Israelis appear to see little hope in the longstanding international formula for peace – the “two-state solution”. The phrase denotes a final settlement that would see Israel living peacefully alongside an independent state of Palestine, defined within pre-1967 ceasefire lines in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.”

That framing was again reinforced just a few paragraphs later in the Saeb Erekat quote which appears to be a near permanent feature in any BBC report mentioning ‘the peace process’.  

The article by the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet promoted inaccurate and misleading comment from another BBC favourite, Mustafa Barghouti.

“The disillusion and despair in Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza will be even greater as they see the results of an election, in which they had no say, that will shape their future.

“There’s no difference between one party or another,” comments veteran Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti, chairman of the Palestinian National Initiative. “All of them are calling for the continuation of the occupation and settlement building.”” [emphasis added]

Doucet did not bother to clarify that the reason residents “in the West Bank and Gaza…had no say” is because they are not Israeli citizens and they instead have the right to vote in elections for the Palestinian parliament if and when those take place.

As was the case in BBC coverage of the two previous elections in 2013 and 2015, coverage of this election presented a picture which disproportionately focused on one side of the Israeli political map with audiences learning very little about the policies of participating Centrist and Leftist parties.

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. 

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC News website pre-election coverage

Reviewing the BBC’s record of reporting on Israeli elections

Elections 2015 – a postscript on BBC framing of Israeli elections over 23 years

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC reports on the “Nature and Functioning of the Supreme National Authority of the Return Marches and Lifting the Siege”.

“A year has passed since the return march project began. Preparations for the project began in early 2018 as an initiative of social activists and organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. In the early stages, when the idea was being formulated, the organizers of the march claimed that the events would not be of a political nature, that official representatives of the various organizations would not participate, and that there would be no violence. Hamas supported the idea of the marches, but preferred to remain behind the scenes in the initial preparation stage. However, Hamas quickly took over the reins and took control of the return marches, even before the first march took place, on March 30, 2018. The longer the marches continued, the greater the importance attached to them by Hamas.”

2) At the INSS, Sarah J Feuer analyses the unrest in North Africa.

“With the apparent defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS), the approaching end to the civil war in Syria, and sovereignty returning to Iraq, the Middle East has appeared to settle into a relative, if tense, calm. Across North Africa, however, where the upheavals began eight years ago, recent weeks have witnessed a growing unrest reminiscent of the Arab Spring’s early days. Though ostensibly unrelated, the removal of longtime autocrats in Algeria and Sudan, and an emerging strongman’s bid for hegemony in Libya, collectively point to competing visions for a post-Arab Spring order whose fate remains uncertain.”

3) Writing at Bloomberg, Daniel Gordis argues that “Israel’s Election Didn’t Kill Hope for Peace. It Was Already Dead.

“Many Israelis still hope for peace, and many (though a steadily decreasing number) still favor a two-state solution. But few imagine that there is any chance for either in the coming years. U.S. President Donald Trump has long promised to deliver the “deal of the century,” but Israelis are largely of two minds on that: Many believe it will never see the light of day; most of the rest think that because the Palestinians have already declared the program “born dead,” it makes no difference what Israelis think of it.

There is no “deal” now or in the foreseeable future primarily because the Palestinians have still not made peace with the idea that a Jewish state is here to stay. When Hamas, which controls Gaza, started its “March of Return” last year, it promised that the march would mark the beginning of the “liberation of all of Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.” The march, in other words, was simply the latest chapter in Hamas’s drive to destroy the Jewish state.”

4) At the JCPA Pinhas Inbari takes a look behind the scenes of the formation of the new PA government about which BBC audiences have yet to hear.

“On April 13, 2019, Dr. Muhammad Shtayyeh announced the formation of his new Palestinian Authority government. The announcement followed earlier reports he was going to ask President Mahmoud Abbas to give him an extension to complete his task of government formation. […]

The reason for the extension was that he wanted to meet the challenge of defining the government as a broad, Palestinian “PLO government” as pre-announced. He also wanted to include personalities from the diaspora who had been invited to Ramallah.

However, the leading factions of the PLO – the Democratic Front and the Popular Front – are allied with Hamas, and they refused to participate. The Fatah faction in the West Bank rejected the “outsiders.”  They wanted all of the portfolios to be kept in local Fatah’s hands – except for a few, such as Riad Malki, a PFLP associate.

For this reason, Shtayyeh’s administration is not a “PLO government” as pre-designed, but only “just” a government.”

 

Looking beyond BBC framing of the US peace proposal

As we have seen in recent weeks, the BBC is already gearing up for the anticipated publication of the US administration’s peace proposal with some very specific framing.

BBC’s Plett Usher continues to promote her Israel narratives

BBC’s peace plan framing and speculations – part one

BBC’s peace plan framing and speculations – part two

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

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

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

So what approach is the Palestinian Authority (with its new unelected prime minister about whom BBC audiences have yet to hear) taking ahead of the anticipated reveal of the US proposal? Veteran Palestinian affairs journalist Khaled Abu Toameh has been keeping track.

“Palestinian officials say that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has requested an urgent meeting of the Arab League, in an attempt to win Arab support for Palestinian opposition to the plan. […] 

The Ramallah-based officials are particularly worried that key Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, have thus far failed to endorse the Palestinians’ fierce opposition to what they perceive to be the “biggest conspiracy to liquidate the Palestinian cause and national rights.”

The Arab response to what has been leaked about the “deal of the century” appears to be toned down in comparison with the rhetoric employed by Abbas and other Palestinian officials. In the past two years, Abbas and his representatives have repeatedly denounced the unseen plan as an “American-Zionist conspiracy,” dubbing it as “the slap of the century” and the “deal of shame.”

They have also launched scathing attacks on Trump’s “Zionist team” – US Ambassador David Friedman and presidential advisers Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, whom they hold responsible for a plan they believe fully endorses the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Right in Israel. […]

The Fatah representative and other Palestinian officials in Ramallah said that they have more confidence in the EU, Russia and China than in their Arab brothers.”

If that portrayal of the topic sounds familiar that is because BBC framing of the story so far – not least that of the BBC’s US State Department correspondent – has closely adhered to the talking points put out by the PLO and PA.

Abu Toameh also notes that:

“…Abbas is also aware that under the current circumstances, he doesn’t have many options to thwart the “deal of the century,” especially in light of divisions among the Palestinians and the absence of an Arab consensus toward the peace plan. Even worse, Abbas is convinced that the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip are “in collusion” with the Americans and Israel to establish a separate Palestinian state in the coastal enclave.

The only card Abbas holds at this stage is the threat to revoke all agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israel, including the Oslo Accords. In the coming weeks, Abbas is planning to convene various forums of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to discuss the Palestinian measures in response to the “deal of the century.” These measures, according to Palestinian sources, include revoking PLO recognition of Israel and cutting all ties with Israel, including security coordination in the West Bank.”

And what of Hamas’ approach to the as yet unpublished plan? While the BBC serially excludes the terror group from its reporting on the topic (with the result being that audiences are left with the inaccurate impression that there is one unified Palestinian voice), its stance is obviously relevant and Khaled Abu Toameh has documented that too.

“Hamas, of course, is strongly opposed to US President Donald Trump’s upcoming plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the “Deal of the Century.” How can Hamas accept any peace plan that recognizes Israel’s right to exist? Hamas is opposed to the Deal of the Century not because the plan doesn’t offer the Palestinians enough land. It is opposed to the plan because it doesn’t offer the Palestinians all the land, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. […]

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has undoubtedly read the Hamas charter. He knows that, as a Muslim, if he accepts any peace plan that does not include the expulsion of all Jews from their homes, he will be denounced by his rivals in Hamas as a traitor. Abbas is also aware of Hamas’s threats to shower Israel with rockets. He knows that at the same time as Hamas attacks Israel, it will seek to flatten him for “betraying” Arabs and Muslims in “allowing” Jews to continue living in “their” state. This is the Palestinian reality that the Deal of the Century is about to be dealt.”

Yet meanwhile, the BBC continues to ignore Palestinian internal politics and instead chooses to herd its audiences towards the view that if the US peace proposal goes nowhere, that will be because of the US “administration’s embrace of the Israeli government’s right-wing positions”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC’s peace plan framing and speculations – part two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BBC’s peace plan framing and speculations – part one

BBC’s peace plan framing and speculations – part one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

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

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

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

 

 

BBC’s Plett Usher continues to promote her Israel narratives

In December 2017 the BBC News website published an article titled “Trumplomacy: Key takeaways from Jerusalem policy shift“. In March 2019 the BBC News website published an article titled “Trumplomacy on Golan Heights: What it all means”.  

The latest article in the ‘Trumplomacy’ genre by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent Barbara Plett Usher appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on April 12th under the headline “Trumplomacy: Where are things at with the Mideast peace plan?”. [emphasis in bold added]

The main image illustrating the article is captioned “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) recently became the first high-ranking US official to visit Jerusalem’s Western Wall last month”. In fact previous American visitors to the site have included the US President, Vice-President and former UN ambassador.

Although Israel’s president will only begin meeting with representatives of the lists which won seats in the Knesset in last week’s election on April 15th in order to hear their recommendations for the candidate who should be tasked with forming the next government and that person will then have 28 days in which to do so (with the possibility of a two-week extension), Plett Usher already ‘knows’ what sort of new government Israel will have:

“With a newly elected right-wing government taking shape in Israel this is a good time to check in on the status of the Trump administration’s peace plan.”

Under the sub-heading “How has the [US] policy changed?” Plett Usher instructs readers to:

“Remember that the formula for peace negotiations has been: two states based on the borders of Arab territory seized by Israel in the 1967 war, with mutually agreed land swaps; sufficient security arrangements; a just solution for Palestinian refugees; and negotiations to settle the fate of Jerusalem, the occupied eastern part of which Palestinians claim as their capital.”

While Plett Usher does not specify the source of her “the formula for peace negotiations”, her description is apparently based on non-binding UN General Assembly resolutions such as 3236 and/or the extinct 2003 Quartet road map.

Interestingly, Plett Usher does not bother to inform her readers that the Oslo Accords – the one agreement which resulted from actual negotiations between Israel and the PLO – did not specify the two-state solution as “the formula”.

Significantly, while portraying the “fate of Jerusalem” as the sole issue to be resolved in negotiations, Plett Usher fails to inform audiences that under the terms of the Oslo Accords, other topics she portrays as ‘givens’ – borders, refugees and settlements – are also to be resolved in permanent status negotiations.

Instead Plett Usher promotes the false notion of pre-1967 “borders”, failing to clarify that those were actually armistice lines which were specifically defined in the 1949 Armistice Agreement as not being borders. Equally revealing is Plett Usher’s description of land assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland which was belligerently occupied by Jordan and Egypt in 1948 as “Arab territory” and her prior reference to “the occupied Palestinian West Bank”.

In other words Barbara Plett Usher has unquestioningly adopted and promoted the PLO’s stance on that issue.  She goes on:

“But the White House has declared that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, cut funds to the UN agency that looks after Palestinian refugees, and accepted Israel’s unilateral annexation of other occupied territory, the Golan Heights.”

A journalist with integrity would clarify that the US announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city specifically stated that – in contrast to the impression Plett Usher is trying to create – it had no bearing on negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Today’s actions—recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing the relocation of our embassy—do not reflect a departure from the strong commitment of the United States to facilitating a lasting peace agreement. The United States continues to take no position on any final status issues. The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties. The United States is not taking a position on boundaries or borders.”

And if bringing up the topic of cuts in US funding to UNRWA, a journalist devoted to informing readers would also have explained the background to that decision, the controversies surrounding that UN agency and the broader issue of Palestinian refugees.

Going on to reference the anti-Israel BDS campaign, Plett Usher likewise fails to inform readers of that campaign’s aims, thereby denying them the ability to judge the statement she paraphrases.

“The state department’s new envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Elan Carr, has reinforced this Israeli narrative in US policy.

He told us that boycotting goods made in Jewish West Bank settlements was anti-Semitic, even though the settlements are illegal under international law and have expanded to such a degree many question whether a Palestinian state is still viable.”

Plett Usher then bolsters her article’s core messaging to readers with a quote sourced from an organisation she once again signposts as “liberal”.

“The administration’s embrace of the Israeli government’s right-wing positions has alarmed liberal American Jewish organizations.

“What they’ve done so far tells you what they intend to lay out,” says Jeremy Ben-Ami of the J Street lobby group. “They have no intention to lay out what could conceivably resolve the conflict. Instead they will tie American government positions to those of the farthest right of Israel’s political spectrum.””

In her final section – sub-headed “What about the Palestinian reaction?” – Plett Usher qualifies the description of people convicted of violent attacks against Israelis.

“Mr Abbas is very unpopular. But on a recent trip to Jerusalem I was told anecdotally that Palestinians have at least given him credit for standing firm on their three core issues: Jerusalem, refugees and maintaining funds to Palestinian prisoners – whom the Israelis regard as terrorists – despite financial pressure.”

Although the US administration’s proposal has yet to be revealed, the Palestinian Authority has already made its rejection of it amply clear. Nevertheless Barbara Plett Usher’s aim in this article is to convince BBC audiences that when it does appear, that plan is destined to fail because it ‘embraces’ the positions of “the farthest right of Israel’s political spectrum” rather than because the Palestinians have made it a non-starter.

While Plett Usher’s promotion of that narrative comes as no surprise, it is unfortunate that BBC audiences continue to be fed commentary which does little to enhance their understanding of this and additional topics from a person whose impartiality on issues relating to Israel has long been in plain sight.

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