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?

 

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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. 

 

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

The session concerning the US’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city that was held at the UN General Assembly on December 21st was the subject of several articles published on the BBC News website.

The day before the meeting took place – December 20th – an article headlined “UN Jerusalem vote: US ‘will be taking names’” which was previously discussed here appeared on the BBC News website.

An additional article published on the same day ran under the headline “Jerusalem UN vote: Trump threatens US aid recipients” and like the day’s earlier report, it too promoted the partisan map of Jerusalem produced by the political NGO B’tselem that has been regularly featured in past BBC content and – inter alia – portrays the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem as an ‘Israeli settlement’. The article also included the exact same copy/paste context-lite background concerning Jerusalem seen in previous reports. 

“The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel occupied the east of the city, previously occupied by Jordan, in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.

 The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and all countries currently maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. However, President Trump has told the US state department to start work on moving the US embassy.”

Following the UN GA vote on December 21st, the BBC News website published an article titled “Jerusalem: UN resolution rejects Trump’s declaration” which was amended numerous times. That article too included the exact same ‘background’ concerning Jerusalem and the partisan B’tselem map. Readers were provided with a break-down of the results.

“The non-binding resolution was approved by 128 states, with 35 abstaining and nine others voting against.”

Later on readers were also told that:

“There were 21 countries who did not turn up for the vote.”

Despite 63 nations (33.7% of the total) not having voted in favour of the resolution, the apparently mathematically challenged BBC Breaking News Twitter account declared that “three quarters” of the 193 UN members had voted for the resolution.

On December 22nd the BBC News website published a ‘guide’ titled “How did your country vote on the Jerusalem resolution?” and on December 23rd an article by Nada Tawfik was published under the title “US plays hardball at UN over Jerusalem vote“.

In that article Tawfik portrayed the chronic anti-Israel bias at the UN as a ‘claim’ made by the current US administration.

What a difference a year, and a new administration, makes. When the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, made her debut at the UN headquarters in New York, she warned: “For those who don’t have our backs, we’re taking names.”

The new Trump administration came in openly hostile toward the international body for being, it claimed, biased against Israel.”

Tawfik’s article also promoted a quote concerning international law that is liable to mislead audiences.

“French ambassador Francois Delattre said the resolution adopted “only confirms relevant international law and provisions on Jerusalem. This vote must not divide or exclude”.”

In summary, the BBC News website published five articles pertaining to the December 21st UN GA vote, three of which included inadequate historic background and promoted a partisan map produced by a political NGO. The additional two articles did not provide any information whatsoever that would enhance audience understanding of the background to the story.

Once again we see that the BBC’s coverage of the topic of Jerusalem is focused on promoting a specific political narrative rather than on providing audiences with the full range of information and opinions needed for them to make up their own minds on the subject.  

Related Articles:

BBC News still promoting information on Jerusalem from partisan NGOs

BBC’s Knell deletes history in Jerusalem walkabout on Radio 4

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondentclaims to provide listeners with “insight, wit and analysis from BBC correspondents, journalists and writers from around the world” but which of those was intended to apply to the item by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell that appeared in the programme’s December 23rd edition is unclear.

After all, no journalist can truly be said to have offered ‘insight’ and ‘analysis’ on the subject of Jerusalem if he or she refrains from providing audiences with the relevant context of the city’s historical background – not least that pertaining to the circumstances under which the city was divided for the only time in its history by a nineteen-year long Jordanian occupation.

Nevertheless (but, given the BBC’s record on that issue, not surprisingly) Yolande Knell did just that.

Programme presenter Kate Adie set the scene (from 06:52 here), ironically ignoring the issue of the BBC’s weighty contribution to the phenomenon she described in her opening sentence.

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

Adie: “Jerusalem has rarely been out of the news this month since Donald Trump announced that the US now recognises the ancient holy city as Israel’s capital and will move its embassy there from Tel Aviv. This week a large majority at the UN General Assembly backed a resolution effectively calling on Washington to reverse its decision – despite threats from Mr Trump to cut off aid to those voting in favour. The international view has long been that any change in the status of Jerusalem can only come about as part of a negotiated peace agreement. But what do ordinary Israelis and Palestinians think of all this? Yolande Knell has been to the Old City where she found plenty of food for thought.”

Notably, Adie failed to inform listeners that the resolution passed at the UN GA is non-binding and of course refrained from mentioning the absurdities that lie behind “the international view”.

Having set the scene with descriptions of Hanukkah donuts and sahlab, Knell got down to business.

Knell: “But I’m here to get a taste of public opinion. The future of the city, with its sites holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, is one of the most intractable issues in the entire Israel-Palestinian conflict. High up in the Tower of David – an ancient citadel – I find Ayelet with her sons who are off school for the Jewish holiday. She praises Mr Trump as bold and honest, although her mother Yirat [phonetic] exclaims, ‘generally speaking we don’t need his statements. We’ve known for three thousand years that Jerusalem is ours’. Most Israelis say the same. Religiously and culturally they see the city as their eternal, undivided capital. And since the creation of the modern state, Jerusalem has been Israel’s seat of government and home to its supreme court.”

Knell then described the Old City – which of course includes the ancient Jewish Quarter – as ‘East Jerusalem’ while making no effort whatsoever to inform listeners of the relevant topic of the ethnic cleansing of Jews from that part of Jerusalem (and others) as a result of Jordan’s belligerent invasion in 1948.

Knell: “But what makes the status of the city so contentious is the part where we’re standing: East Jerusalem. It was captured by Israel in a war with its Arab neighbours fifty years ago and annexed. That move wasn’t internationally recognized – a fact that pains Yirat and Ayelet. They hope the new US decision will lead to what they call more important steps. ‘We have to come here to look at the place where the story of Hanukkah happened’ says Yirat as she points across the Old City rooftops. ‘Over there; that’s Temple Mount’.”

Knell went on to put history supported by archaeological evidence on a par with religious belief.

Knell: “The site where two biblical temples are believed to have stood is the holiest place on earth for Jews. But it’s also the third holiest site for Muslims who believe the prophet Mohammed rose to heaven from the spot under the gleaming Dome of the Rock next to al Aqsa Mosque. Non-Muslims can visit but can’t pray in the compound.”

She then paraphrased her next Israeli opinion:

Knell: “It’s awareness of all these religious sensitivities that worries Rob, a British Israeli who’s also climbed the tower with his children.”

After a brief description of the Hanukkah story, Knell repeated a practice that has previously been seen on numerous occasions in BBC coverage of this story in recent weeks. Rather than informing listeners of the US Embassy Act passed by Congress in 1995 and its reaffirmation in the Senate just months ago, she portrayed the US president as having ‘gone rogue’.

Knell: “Rob doesn’t dismiss the idea that Mr Trump’s pronouncement on Jerusalem – breaking with decades of previous US policy – could end up being a turning point in the Middle East peace process. But at the same time he sees the president as ‘a bit wacky’ and warns his gesture could provoke Arab extremists.”

Knell continued, following the standard BBC formula of amplifying Palestinian claims even after audiences have been told that Israeli claims are null and void because the ‘international community’ says that “any change in the status of Jerusalem can only come about as part of a negotiated peace agreement”. The BBC’s repeated employment of that formula of course suggests to its audiences that recognition of Jewish sovereignty represents a ‘change in the status of Jerusalem’ while Palestinian demands regarding Jerusalem do not.  

Knell: “Palestinians have reacted furiously to the change in the US position. They still want East Jerusalem as the capital of their desired future state and say that Washington can no longer claim to act as an honest peace broker. There have been protests and clashes with Israeli security forces across the Palestinian territories.”

Knell then moved on to Damascus Gate, again describing the food on sale nearby before bringing in the Palestinian side of “public opinion”.

Knell: “I ask Nasser, who’s carrying his prayer mat on the way back from al Aqsa, for his reaction to recent events. ‘Trump’s a crazy man’ he sighs ‘he says he wants to make peace but he’ll just make war’. ‘Jerusalem’s in our hearts’ he goes on ‘this is our land, it’s an Arab city. What about the rights of Muslims and Christians?'”

Knell of course did not bother to inform audiences that only under Israeli rule have all three religions been able to visit and worship at their holy sites in Jerusalem. She went on:

Knell: “Another Palestinian I speak to, Dahlia [phonetic], is a Christian tour organiser who says she can trace her family’s presence in Jerusalem for centuries. She tells me she was disgusted but not surprised by the US president’s declaration.”

Notably, we next learn that – despite having failed to produce any meaningful reporting on the topic over the last weeks – Yolande Knell is aware of the incitement to violence coming from PA officials and various Palestinian factions.

Knell: “But she admits that despite her expectation that all hell would break loose, so far there hasn’t been anything like the uprising that some leaders were calling for. Her fear now is that regional alliances are shifting and that despite recent shows of support at the UN, the Palestinian nationalist cause is no longer an international priority – even for some of its traditional backers in the Middle East.”

Knell closed her item:

Knell: “Returning along the winding streets takes me away from modern politics. I find myself listening to a guide recounting stories of prophets, kings and caliphs of ages past to awe-struck tourists. What’s not yet clear is the extent to which Donald Trump will go down as an important name in the long, rich history of this holy city.”

For over three weeks the BBC has been promoting a monochrome – and hyperbolic – portrait of the story of the US announcement concerning Jerusalem that fails to provide audiences with the historical background necessary for full understanding of the issue, whitewashes US legislation that has existed for over two decades and promotes a partisan narrative. This item from Yolande Knell made no effort to get beyond that template and failed to provide Radio 4 listeners with anything remotely different to what they have been hearing repeatedly since early December.  

 

Was BBC News reporting of the Pope’s Christmas address accurate and impartial?

On December 25th visitors to the BBC News website’s main homepage, its ‘World’ page and its ‘Middle East’ page found a report presented as follows:

Contrary to the impression given by that presentation, the Pope’s Christmas address did not include any mention whatsoever of the US president or his December 6th announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The BBC article reached by clicking on that link – titled “Urbi et Orbi: Pope calls for peace for Jerusalem” – is 401 words long. Twenty-one of those words related to the US president:

“US President Donald Trump recently announced that America recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The controversial move drew international condemnation.”

Seventy-four words were devoted to the topic of the non-binding resolution passed the previous week by the UN General Assembly.

“Last week, UN members decisively backed a non-binding resolution that said any decisions regarding the status of Jerusalem were “null and void” and must be cancelled. […]

Guatemala has said it plans to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, following Mr Trump’s announcement.

It joined the US and Israel, and Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo, in voting against the UN resolution.

However, 128 countries backed the resolution while others abstained.”

A total of 155 words were used to provide background information – in part politically partisan and lacking sufficient historical context – concerning Jerusalem.

“Palestinians want East Jerusalem as their future capital, and all countries currently keep their embassies in Tel Aviv. […]

Jerusalem is home to sites sacred to Judaism and Islam, and because of its role in the life of Jesus, the city is also one of the holiest places for Christians.

The city’s status goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel regards Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war – as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally and, according to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The Papal address itself was given 151 words of coverage with one hundred and three of those words relating to Israel and the Palestinians and a mere 25 words relating to the rest of the world.

“Pope Francis has used his traditional Christmas Day message to call for “peace for Jerusalem” and dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

Acknowledging “growing tensions” between them, he urged a “negotiated solution… that would allow the peaceful co-existence of two states”. […]

The Roman Catholic leader gave his Urbi et Orbi speech, which in Latin means “To the city and world”, in Saint Peter’s Square.

“On this festive day let us ask the lord for peace for Jerusalem and for all the Holy Land,” he told the crowd.

“Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful co-existence of two states within mutually agreed and internationally recognised borders.”

The pontiff’s speech touched on other pressing international issues, from the migration crisis to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, from Venezuela to North Korea.”

BBC audiences would clearly get the impression from that report that the focus of the Pope’s address was on Israel and the Palestinians and that he merely “touched on” other issues.

However, examination of the actual 932 word address delivered by the Pope shows that while he used 118 words to speak about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he devoted 439 words to speaking about other topics including Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Africa, Venezuela, North Korea, Ukraine, Myanmar, Bangladesh, children of unemployed parents, migrants and child labour.

So while 80.5% of the BBC’s coverage of the speech related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, in fact that topic featured in just 21.2% of the parts of the address relating to specific countries and issues and in 12.7% of the speech as a whole.

Obviously the BBC News website cannot claim to have reported that Papal address in a manner that accurately and impartially reflects its content and its focus.

BBC News still promoting information on Jerusalem from partisan NGOs

In recent days the BBC News website published two reports concerning campaigns at the UN directed against the US’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as announced two weeks ago.

On December 18th the website published a 533 word report titled “Jerusalem: US vetoes UN resolution rejecting Trump’s declaration“. Fifty-six of those words were used to promote the theme that the US announcement has caused Palestinian violence. Explanation of the motion presented to the UN Security Council by Egypt (including a link) was provided in 137 words and Palestinian reactions to the US veto were given 61 words of coverage. Remarks made by the US Ambassador to the UN got just 70 words of coverage and BBC audiences were not informed of the points raised in Ms Haley’s explanation of why the US vetoed the draft resolution.

Some minimal background information on Jerusalem was presented to readers in 104 words – mostly recycled from previous BBC articles in recent weeks.

“The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

Israel occupied the east of the city, previously occupied by Jordan, in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and all countries currently maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. However, President Trump has told the US state department to start work on moving the US embassy.”

Seeing as the BBC chose to provide readers with a link to the text of the Egyptian draft resolution and given that the document states that the motion reaffirms “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force”, one might have thought that the BBC would have put more effort into explaining how “the east” of Jerusalem came to be “previously occupied by Jordan” and the significance of that fact.

The article also includes a map of Jerusalem produced by the partisan political NGO B’tselem which – among other things – portrays the Jewish Quarter in the Old City as an “Israeli settlement”.

On December 20th the BBC News website published a report headlined “UN Jerusalem vote: US ‘will be taking names’” which relates to the next upcoming stage of actions against the US announcement concerning Jerusalem.

“The US says it “will be taking names” during a UN General Assembly vote on a resolution criticising its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Permanent representative Nikki Haley warned member states that President Donald Trump had asked her to report on “who voted against us” on Thursday.

The draft resolution does not mention the US, but says any decisions on Jerusalem should be cancelled.

On Monday, the US vetoed a similar motion at the UN Security Council.”

The article promotes the exact same context-lite background concerning Jerusalem seen in the previous report. It also includes – yet again – the same map of Jerusalem produced by B’tselem.

Between December 4th and December 20th visitors to the BBC News website were shown the partisan maps of Jerusalem produced by UNOCHA and/or B’tselem in no fewer than eleven reports including the two above.

December 4thJerusalem: Opposition to mooted Trump Israel announcement grows” 

December 5thJerusalem: Turkey warns Trump against crossing ‘red line’”, Trump’s Jerusalem calls spark warnings from Arab leaders

December 6thUS to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital“, Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, says Donald Trump“, Jerusalem: Trump recognition ‘kiss of death’ for peace

December 7thTrumplomacy: Key takeaways from Jerusalem policy shift” 

December 8th: “Jerusalem: Trump’s envoy Haley berates ‘outrageous UN hostility’

December 13th: “Muslim nations urge recognition of East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital” 

Both B’tselem and UNOCHA are active in political campaigning against Israel.

“In 2016 alone, OCHA-oPt requested $571 million from international donors towards various causes. Among other things, the money was designated for highly biased NGOs, including: Islamic Relief Worldwide, which, in June 2014, was outlawed by Israel for its alleged role in funneling money to Hamas (a designated terror organization by Israel, the U.S., EU and Canada); the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a leader of anti-Israel “lawfare” campaigns used to demonize Israel and harass Israeli officials; and the pro-BDS Ma’an Development Center.

UN OCHA also manages “Thematic Clusters” – for biased, political, radical NGOs to manipulate and circulate unconfirmed, false, and distorted statistics to the UN and media. For example, during the 2014 Gaza war, the OCHA “Protection Cluster” designated Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Al Mezan, and B’Tselem, to provide “data” regarding casualty statistics. These NGOs, which lack credible methodologies for analysis of casualty claims, appear to have been repeating information originating with Hamas officials in Gaza.”

How the BBC – committed as it is to the provision of “accurate and impartial” reporting to its audiences – thinks it can justify its serial promotion of one-sided maps produced by partisan NGOs that advance a blatant anti-Israel agenda remains unclear.  

 

 

Inaccuracy and distortion in BBC report of Netanyahu’s UN speech

On October 2nd 2013 the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel PM calls Iran leader ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’” which supposedly informs BBC audiences about the speech made by PM Netanyahu at the UN General Assembly the previous day.

The article opens with a gross inaccuracy:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned against working with the Iranian government.”

Netanyahu UN speech art

To ‘warn against’ is defined as “to advise someone against someone, something, or doing something”. “Warned against working with the Iranian government” would therefore be understood by any reasonable reader as meaning to advise not to work with the Iranian government.

In fact, a significant proportion of Netanyahu’s speech was devoted to the subject of safeguards which should be employed by the international community whilst negotiating with Iran.

“So here is what the international community must do: First, keep up the sanctions. If Iran advances its nuclear weapons program during negotiations, strengthen the sanctions.

Second, don’t agree to a partial deal. A partial deal would lift international sanctions that have taken years to put in place in exchange for cosmetic concessions that will take only weeks for Iran to reverse.

Third, lift the sanctions only when Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons program. My friends, the international community has Iran on the ropes. If you want to knock out Iran’s nuclear weapons program peacefully, don’t let up the pressure. Keep it up.

We all want to give diplomacy with Iran a chance to succeed, but when it comes to Iran, the greater the pressure, the greater the chance. Three decades ago, President Ronald Reagan famously advised, “trust but verify.” When it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, here’s my advice: Distrust, dismantle and verify.”

In other words, Netanyahu did not warn “against working with the Iranian government” at all – but he did urge the international community to go about it in a rational and cautious manner. 

Despite the fact that this 490 word article (not including the side-box of analysis from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly) actually only includes 179 words on the subject of Netanyahu’s speech itself (with the other 311 words being devoted to Iranian reactions to it and other issues), another inaccuracy appears further on in the report.

“He [Netanyahu] claimed that Mr Rouhani – in his previous role as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator – masterminded a strategy that enabled his country to move closer to developing nuclear weapons.”

The actual words used by Netanyahu were as follows:

“You know why Rouhani thinks he can get away with this? I mean, this is a ruse. It’s a ploy. Why does Rouhani think he — thinks he can get away with it? Because — because he’s gotten away with it before, because his strategy of talking a lot and doing little has worked for him in the past.

He even brags about this. Here’s what he said in his 2011 book about his time as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, and I quote: “While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan.”

Now, for those of you who don’t know, the Isfahan facility is an indispensable part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. That’s where uranium ore called yellowcake is converted into an enrichable form. Rouhani boasted, and I quote, “By creating a calm environment — a calm environment — we were able to complete the work in Isfahan.” He fooled the world once. Now he thinks he can fool it again.”

As readers can see for themselves, there is no mention of the Bond film-like word “masterminded” and of course the BBC neglects to inform audiences that Netanyahu’s remarks were based on quotes from Rouhani himself.

Here is Rouhani in an interview with the Iranian regime’s IRIB during his recent election campaign. During that campaign, some of Rouhani’s opponents had accused him of giving in to the West during his stint as nuclear negotiator, effectively halting Iran’s nuclear programme. This is his reply to those accusations.

In his side-box of ‘analysis’ Kevin Connolly promotes the facile notion of Israel as the Grinch spoiling everyone else’s party.

“The Israeli nightmare is a world in which ties between its best friend and its worst enemy improve.”

Connolly analysis UN speech

No, Mr Connolly, Israel’s nightmare (and that of several other countries in the region which you conveniently neglect to mention) is that a repressive, theocratic, terror-sponsoring dictatorship will acquire nuclear military capability whilst the rest of the world stands by and does nothing.

If that is the best ‘analysis’ the BBC can offer its audiences on such a critical issue, then one really has to wonder why it bothers at all.

With its focus on unimportant sound-bites rather than content and its promotion of obvious inaccuracies, this report does nothing to inform BBC audiences of the substance of PM Netanyahu’s speech at the UN GA, thus failing to meet the criteria defined in the BBC’s ‘Public Purposes’ and preventing BBC audiences from building “a global understanding of international issues” which in turn enables them to “participate in the global debate on significant international issues”.

BBC fails to report on UN resolution to subject more minorities to violence in Syria

Almost two years ago, in January 2011, the veteran former BBC news-reader Peter Sissons wrote an article in the Daily Mail about what he termed the BBC ‘mindset’. In it, he stated:

“At any given time there is a BBC line on everything of importance, a line usually adopted in the light of which way its senior echelons believe the political wind is ­blowing. This line is rarely spelled out explicitly, but percolates subtly throughout the organisation.

Whatever the United Nations is associated with is good — it is heresy to question any of its activities. The EU is also a good thing, but not quite as good as the UN.”

Such an attitude perhaps goes some way toward explaining the BBC UN correspondent’s resounding silence on the fact that during the past year the UN General Assembly has passed twenty two resolutions singling out Israel for criticism – and only four on the rest of the world combined. 

Notably ignored by the BBC is the fact that on December 18th – when no fewer than nine anti-Israel resolutions were passed in one day – one of those resolutions called for the Golan Heights to be returned “forthwith” to Syrian control. 

As the Executive Director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, noted:

 “At a time when the Syrian regime is massacring its own people, how can the U.N. call for more people to be subject to Assad’s rule? The timing of today’s text is morally galling and logically absurd.” 

As the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, the 20,000 or so Druze residents of the Golan Heights privately express great concern for the fate of their family members in Syria, with applications for Israeli citizenship (to which they have been entitled since Israel annexed the Golan in 1981) reaching an all-time high in recent months. 

“I believe this trend will only increase,” a Mas’ade resident who holds Israeli citizenship told the paper. “More and more people comprehend that this [Israel] is a well-managed country and it’s possible to live and raise children here. It is preferable to turning into refugees in another country.”

“In Syria there is mass murder, and if [the Druze are] under Syrian control they would likely be turned into the victims of these atrocities. People see murdered children and refugees fleeing to Jordan and Turkey, lacking everything, and ask themselves: Where do I want to raise my children. The answer is clear — in Israel and not Syria.”

The 2,000 or so Alawite residents of Ghajar, which also came under Israeli control in 1967, already have Israeli citizenship and they are certainly no strangers to arbitrary UN declarations made thousands of miles away with absolutely no relevance to the situation on the ground. As members of the minority sect to which the Assad family also belongs, one can only guess their fate were their village to be returned to Syrian control “forthwith”. 

None of these aspects of that UN GA resolution and others were reported by the BBC’s UN correspondent. She did – however- manage to put out the following Tweet:

Plett tweet 19 12

A BBC which avoids engaging in critical thinking regarding the anti-Israel obsession of the UN and hence promotes a trite, one-dimensional view of the Middle East cannot but fail in its task to increase its audiences’ understanding of the region and the complexities of the issues its residents face. 

BBC’s UN correspondent misses item about Israel

On December 21st 2012 a session at the United Nations General Assembly dealt with recommended draft resolutions on the subject of sustainable development.  

“As it took action on 36 draft resolutions and 3 draft decisions presented by the Committee, the Assembly adopted 34 of those texts without a vote and 5 by recorded vote.  Of great significance to delegations was the adoption of a draft resolution on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review of United Nations operational activities for development.”

One of the resolutions – on “Entrepreneurship for Development” – was proposed by Israel, along with 97 co-sponsors. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said:

“Make no mistake. The stakes before us are high. The people we empower today will become the next Einstein, the next Picasso, the next Mother Theresa of tomorrow”.

As Daniel Carmon, head of Israel’s MASHAV Agency for International Development Cooperation wrote in the National Post:

“This groundbreaking resolution highlights the value of entrepreneurship for creating jobs in the developing world, opening up economic opportunities, and fostering responsibility in both local entrepreneurs and donor countries.” 

As the protocol of the session records:

“Turning to the draft resolution titled “Entrepreneurship for development”, the Assembly adopted it by a recorded vote of 141 in favour to 31 against, with 11 abstentions.

By that text, the Assembly emphasized the important role of partnerships with the private sector in promoting entrepreneurship, generating employment and investment, increasing revenue potential, developing new technologies and innovative business models, and enabling high, sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth while protecting the rights of workers.”

Obviously, members of the developing world would welcome such an initiative…wouldn’t they? Well, not some it seems – if it is proposed by Israel. 

Annex II

Against:  Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Yemen.

“The representative of Israel said he had hoped for consensus on the text, stressing that States in the Arab world especially could benefit from entrepreneurship.  Their people were demanding better lives, better economies and better governance, and did not wish to live with rampant corruption, discrimination against women and economic stagnation.  By voting against the resolution, Arab delegations were turning their backs on their own people and trying to turn back the clock on the important work of the United Nations.  It was now time to take the words of the resolution off the page and breathe life into them on the ground, he stressed, adding that the stakes were high.”

“Syria’s representative, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, described that statement as “truly strange”, given the criticism that Israel had received over human rights violations and denial of economic opportunities to people living under occupation.  Saudi Arabia’s representative defended his country’s record as a peace-loving nation, and his counterpart from Sudan said her country had not turned its back on its people, as the Israeli representative had said, but had instead turned its face towards those living under Israeli occupation.”

Strangely, I can’t seem to find a report on any of this from the BBC’s UN correspondent

Wishful thinking: a BBC view of ‘global sentiment’

The BBC News website’s Middle East page had a ditsy little headline on its homepage of December 3rd: 

Turning Tide

UN vote offers snapshot of global sentiment on peace process

hp 3 12

The link leads to an article by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly entitled “UN vote gives Palestinians new diplomatic powers”. But before getting to that, readers may ponder exactly which “tide” the BBC thinks is turning and what sort of universal “sentiment” on the peace process it believes can be concluded from the UN GA vote of November 29th

Of the 138 countries which voted in favour of the resolution, no fewer than 53 are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The vast majority of states comprising that body do not have diplomatic relations with Israel and do not seek peace with Israel. In some cases they actively seek Israel’s destruction. Some of them finance and/or supply the terror organisations which up to only a week before the UN vote were committing hundreds of war crimes a day by deliberately targeting Israeli civilians with military-grade missiles. 

One of the OIC’s aims, according to its founding charter is:

“To support and empower the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination and establish their sovereign State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, while safeguarding its historic and Islamic character as well as the Holy places therein”

Another of the OIC’s aims is expressed thus:

“The Headquarters of the General Secretariat shall be in the city of Jeddah until the liberation of the city of Al-Quds so that it will become the permanent Headquarters of the Organisation.”

The OIC is of course the same organization which claims to have been the initiator of the Goldstone Report, which is famous for its serial sponsorship of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN, which rejects internationally-accepted standards of universal human rights and demands Shari’ah-based “human rights” instead and which has been pressuring the UN to adopt “global blasphemy laws“. 

“Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said the international community should ‘come out of hiding from behind the excuse of freedom of expression’, a reference to Western arguments against a universal blasphemy law that the OIC has sought for over a decade.”

Fifty one of the additional voters at the UN GA in favour of the Palestinian bid are members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which – despite its title – operates as another voting bloc within the UN system. Some members of the OIC are also part of the NAM, which is currently led by Iran and will be for the next three years. In August this year members of the NAM met in Tehran and the UN Secretary General caused controversy by attending that meeting. 

Unsurprisingly, the recent NAM summit produced no fewer than two documents relating to the Palestinian issue. One was a “Declaration on Palestine Political Prisoners” – which of course completely ignores the existence of terrorism – and the other was a “Solidarity Declaration on Palestine“, which is replete with all the usual one-sided rhetoric one would expect to see from such a source, including the following clause: 

“The Heads of State or Government  welcomed in this regard the application submitted, on 23 September 2011, by Palestine to be admitted as a Member State of the United Nations, consistent with the right of the Palestinian people to self- determination and independence, convinced that realization of this objective will be a major step towards securing freedom, dignity, stability and peace for the Palestinian people.  They also welcomed the admission of Palestine as a Member State of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.”

It is therefore completely unsurprising to see both members of the OIC and the NAM – many of them of course not exactly paragons of democracy and human rights – voting in favour of the resolution en masse. In fact, the outcome of the vote was never in doubt because for years now the UN has only ever produced the inevitable when it comes to Israel. 

Why that should inspire the BBC to categorise the vote as a “turning tide” is a mystery: if anything, the tide stood still and continued its brackish ways. Neither do the results of the OIC and NAM dominated vote have anything to do with “sentiment” or with anything which can be reasonably described as a ‘peace process’. 

Kevin Connolly’s interpretation of the results of the UN GA vote includes the following:

“The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza would have boosted the standing of the Palestinian militant organisation in the eyes of the Arab world.

It is the more moderate PA based in the West Bank which has invested in the diplomatic strategy through the UN.

So some of the countries which abstained on the vote or voted for the Palestinians may have intended to boost the more moderate secularists of the PA against the Islamists of Hamas rather than the Palestinians in general against the Israelis.”

But by accepting Abbas’ motion, the UN has not only killed off the Oslo Accords once and for all (with apparently no regard for the fact that at over 1,500 Israelis were murdered because of the rejection of those accords by factions within Palestinian society), but has ironically also sounded the death knell for the main product of Oslo; the Palestinian Authority itself.

“Global sentiment on the peace process” has (with very few exceptions) two main strains: those who have no wish to see such a process ever come to fruition and those who have no understanding of the factors currently preventing that process from progressing. Like the 34 additional nations which voted in favour at the UN GA last week, the BBC shows that it falls into the latter category.