Comparing BBC R4 ‘Today’ interviews with two Israeli MKs – part two

The January 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an interview with Balad MK Haneen Zoabi who was in London for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign AGM and other speaking engagements.today-24-1-zoabi-int

As seen in part one of this post, the previous day MK Tzipi Hotovely had been interviewed on the same programme by Sarah Montague and listeners were reminded of that – and obviously intended to view the two interviews as being linked – in the introduction to the item (from 01:24:26 here) by presenter Mishal Husain.

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

Husain: “On yesterday’s programme Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs made clear how pleased her government was to see the Trump administration take office. Within 48 hours of the inauguration, Israel approved more than 500 new homes in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and Prime Minister Netanyahu will be meeting President Trump at the White House next week [sic]. Here’s what Tzipi Hotovely told us yesterday:

‘We think that we have a true friend in the White House. I think that all the declarations of the Trump administration were showing a deep friendship to Israel. They understand the complexity of the circumstances in the Middle East…’

So how does the new era appear from the Palestinian perspective? Haneen Zoabi is a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Good morning.”

Notably, Husain did not inform listeners to which political party Zoabi belongs and provided no information concerning that party’s anti-Israel platform.

Zoabi: “Good morning.”

Husain: “What do you think President Trump means for the Palestinians?”

Zoabi: “As the Israeli says, it is an expression of deep friendship and unfortunately it’s an expression also of supporting the Israelis’ policies of expanding settlements, of Judaising Jerusalem, of the violence policies of Israel against the Palestinians. So we will be the victims of this and this is also the violation of the international law because according to the international law Jerusalem is an occupied territories. So this is to delete the position; to ignore the position of Israel as occupier. We should always remember that Israel is occupier and without…and what’s the US…eh… do is to give Israel a full immunity to its policies. I think the…”

Husain [interrupts]: “You’re referring to….let’s just take one of the issues you’re referring to which is the suggestion that under President Trump the US embassy is going to move from Tel Aviv…”

Zoabi: “Tel Aviv.”

Husain: “…to Jerusalem. Now, what the White House press secretary has said so far is ‘we are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject’. If it does happen, what will it mean do you think? Will it be a red line as far as the Palestinians are concerned?”

Zoabi: “I think yes and I think the reality after that would not be the same as the reality before that. We heard yesterday the Palestinian Authority saying that the Palestinian Authority will withdraw its recognition from Israel – eh…of Israel – and I think this will be the time that the Palestinian Authority will declare the end of the negotiation illusions because till now the negotiations were just illusions. The real word was that Israel steal the Palestinian land, expand settlements – not just in the West Bank. I am a citizen and I live inside Nazareth…”

Husain [interrupts]: “A citizen of Israel.”

Zoabi: “…of Israel and I live inside Nazareth. Israel also now is evacuating thirty thousand Palestinians from the Negev, destroying five Palestinian villages against citizens of Israel. I am not talking the occupied territories in the West Bank. I’m talking about Palestinians whom Israel didn’t expel in 1948.You remember: Israel has expelled 85% of the Palestinians in 1948. No-one is remembering that now. And now…”

Husain [interrupts]: “When we were talking to the Israeli deputy foreign minister yesterday, I mean, she was stressing that in their view settlements are not…are not the only issue; that there are other issues: obviously the status of Jerusalem, refugees, Israel’s security. Where do you think the best chance of peace lies, given what is happening on the ground at the moment?”

Zoabi: “I think it is so strange to talk about peace while reallocating the embassy, while Israel yesterday has announce 600 housing units. As long as Israel is going with full immunity from the international community, with…with that which is considered to be crimes against humanityit’s a war crime to build settlementsit’s a war crimes. And the problem is not just occupation and oppressing the Palestinians – which no-one talks about it. No-one’s talking about the Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli prisoners [prisons]. We must talk about…eh…making Israel accountable. If you want peace, you want justice. And if you want justice you must make Israel accountable to its crimes. It cannot be…it is not logic to give…to vetoes the UN resolution – Security Council resolution – to give support as the British government gives support to Israel all….all…all along and then to talk about peace. If you want peace you must let Israel pay the price of its crimes, of its oppressions, of its settlements, of its 87 racist laws. In Israel there are 87 racist laws….”

Husain [interrupts] “There was recently a UN Security Council resolution which went against Israel…”

Zoabi: [interrupts] “Exactly: an exception, exception.”

Husain: “…and was supported by the British. Thank you very much Haneen Zoabi, member of the Israeli Knesset.”

Zoabi: “Thank you.”

While this interview was about a minute and a quarter shorter than the one with Tzipi Hotovely the previous day, we see that Zoabi was interrupted on four occasions (compared to seven interruptions in the Hotovely interview) – but with notably less hostility.

None of Zoabi’s blatant propaganda and incitement concerning Israel was challenged by Husain – including her inaccurate claim that the entire city of Jerusalem is “occupied”, the lie that Israel “expelled 85% of the Palestinians in 1948”, the falsehood of “87 racist laws” (with Zoabi adding yet another one since she made a similar claim at the PSC AGM just three days earlier) or the unsourced allegation that 30 thousand ‘Palestinians’ are being ‘evacuated’ “from the Negev” (it was 13,000 at the PSC AGM) – which of course actually relates to the Umm al Hiran story and the generously compensated relocation close by of Bedouin squatters.

In fact, the only time that Husain did intervene to correct misleading information was to clarify that Britain had voted in favour of UNSC resolution 2334.

In short, Haneen Zoabi was given a completely unfettered platform from which to spout her predictably one-sided propaganda (in which Palestinians are exclusively portrayed as victims and Arab belligerence and Palestinian terrorism are erased) in an obviously more sympathetic environment than was evident in the previous day’s interview.

The fact that Mishal Husain failed to challenge even one of Zoabi’s many falsehoods means that the BBC cannot possibly claim that this interview was intended to meet its public purpose remit of enhancing “UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.

Related Articles:

Comparing BBC R4 ‘Today’ interviews with two Israeli MKs – part one

The BBC’s Haneen Zoabi show

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ promotion of Haneen Zoabi omits crucial information

The Independent repeats ‘fake news’, claiming “50 racist laws” in Israel (UK Media Watch)

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What context is missing from the BBC’s report on Umm al Hiran?

On January 18th the BBC News website published an article on its Middle East page under the headline “Israeli policeman and Bedouin killed during clashes over demolitions“.umm-al-hiran-art-main

The overwhelming majority of that article’s 614 words are devoted to conflicting accounts of the tragic events in Umm al Hiran earlier that day. Seeing as even now – four days later – the post-mortem examination has not been completed and the ballistics report has yet to be published, the value of some of the subjective and speculative accounts the BBC found it appropriate to publish can at best be said to be doubtful as far as helping readers understand what actually happened is concerned.

Facts were however readily available concerning another part of the story: its context. Strangely, the BBC devoted just 12.2% (75 words) of the article’s word count to informing its audiences of the background to the incidents.

umm-al-hiran-art-background

The BBC’s claim that the people concerned were moved to Umm al Hiran in the 1950s is inaccurate – they were moved to the nearby Yatir area and some of them later took over land in Umm al Hiran. The claim that “they have now been told to move to new housing elsewhere” does not give BBC audiences a proper perspective of what the squatters have actually been offered. Neither is the BBC’s claim that the new town of Hiran is “mainly Jewish” supported by the facts.

One journalist who has studied the case of Umm al Hiran extensively is Ben Dror Yemini.

“The members of the al-Qiyan tribe are right. They were indeed transferred to the Yatir Forest area in the 1950s. They settled there with permission. Precisely because they have certain rights which have been recognized by the authorities and by the courts, they were offered to move – for free – to the regulated community of Hura. Not only did they receive free land, a quarter of an acre for each household, and not only was the infrastructure supplied by the government, but each family received an additional payment, at least NIS 100,000 to build its own home. Moreover, every man married to more than one woman received land units according to the number of his wives – even though polygamy is illegal. And in order not to discriminate against the young ones, all those over the age of 24 received an independent home as well.

Before you say that this is an insufficient settlement, it should be noted that most tribe members considered it a fair and sufficient proposal. They moved to the village of Hura. Very few decided to stay. And out of the very few, a small minority left the Yatir area and spread to the Hiran area. Aerial shots document exactly what went on there starting in the 1960s: The illegal construction continued even after it was decided in 2002 to build the community of Hiran, not just for Jews as the slanderers claim. […]

The arguments I am making here do not belong to a certain side. They are based on a Supreme Court ruling, which determined in these words that “most of the tribe members moved to Hura – a Bedouin community, which is regulated and connected to infrastructures – and the remaining ones are required to evacuate their homes, and are being offered to move to Hura… They are not being expelled and not being abandoned. The suggested evacuation involves different proposals for a move, construction, compensation and a housing option, whether in the town of Hura or in the community of Hiran which is about to be built… The planned community does not prevent the tribe members from living there… Anyone wishing to live in Hiran is entitled to do so, subject to the law and under the fixed conditions.””

Another Israeli journalist who has done extensive work on this topic is Kalman Liebskind. (translation: BBC Watch)

“For very many years the State has been trying to move members of the Abu al-Qiyan family from the area in which they settled and on which they illegally built tens of structures and sheds. In order to persuade them to move to Hura – an organized community with services they do not have in their present location – the State was ready to make generous offers of land and money. Most members of the tribe chose to accept the offers. Some of them, after additional financial encouragement from the state, demolished their illegal buildings themselves.

Among those who chose to stay and refused to move even after all the legal proceedings dismissed their claims, the State defined 58 as being ‘entitled’ to compensation if they agreed to move. Who are those ‘entitled’? Families with children, married couples, one-parent families and single people over the age of 24. What was each of the ‘entitled’ to get? A developed plot of one dunam in a neighbourhood in Hura which was prepared especially to absorb the family members, together with financial compensation for each illegally constructed structure that would be demolished.

But the story did not end there. ‘Where will our children live when they grow up?’ asked members of the tribe. ‘We want plots for them too’. The State also agreed to that. And so, for example, parents of four children aged 3, 5, 7 and 9 got a commitment of financial compensation – a one dunam plot for the parents and four more plots which would be put aside for the children which, when the time came, they could purchase for the symbolic price of a few tens of thousands of shekels. Just a moment, you ask, what happens if the Bedouin has two wives and each one of them has four small children? Well then each woman will get her own plot – and for the eight small children plots would also be put aside.

Last Thursday, when the State’s representatives asked to sign the agreement, the Bedouin announced that they had a few more demands; that what they had got until now was not enough; that in addition to all that they also want a million shekels compensation for each family for the illegal structures that they had built and also 400,000 shekels for each family for the emotional damage caused to them and also plots for business and for greenhouses and also tender-exempt plots in the industrial zone of Hura.

Against all that background, another small problem was born. It turned out that in the tribe there are ten Palestinian women who were brought by the al-Qiyan tribe to live here as second wives. Not only are they not Israeli citizens, but their presence is not legal. The State’s representatives explained to the Bedouin that with all the goodwill in the world, the State cannot give a gift of land to Palestinians from Hebron or Ramallah – Palestinian Authority citizens – that nobody knows how they got here.

In light of the new and inflated list of demands, the negotiators understood that the Bedouin were not interested in closing a deal. This was a list of demands from parties trying to end the negotiations. Nevertheless, the State’s representatives decided to see what more could be done in order to leave an opening for a quiet evacuation. A round of telephone calls between the members of the Israel Land Authority committee produced another better offer. Take ten more plots and we’ll close the deal. Nobody explained, of course, that this is an elegant way to give plots to the Palestinian women without saying so outright but each one understood what he was supposed to understand.

Yesterday evening [January 17th], after the last meeting, it was clear to the State’s representatives that there was nothing more to discuss and no-one to talk to and the evacuation went ahead.”

The vast majority of that highly relevant background is markedly absent from the BBC’s minimalist portrayal of the context of this story. To those familiar with the BBC’s partial portrayal of stories concerning Bedouin land claims over the years (see ‘related articles’ below) that will probably not come as much of a surprise. But nevertheless, the corporation cannot possibly claim that it met its remit of providing accurate and impartial information in order to enhance “audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” with those 75 words.

Related Articles:

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Unquestioning repetition of claims by political activist in BBC report on Negev

BBC amplification of organised anti-Israel delegitimising campaign