BBC News’ account of TIPH story sidesteps violent incidents

On the evening of January 29th the BBC News website published a report titled “Hebron: Palestinians denounce Israeli decision to end observer mission” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

The report actually includes two separate stories, the first of which was presented to readers as follows: [emphasis added]

“The Palestinian Authority has condemned Israel’s decision not to renew the mandate of a foreign observer force in the divided West Bank city of Hebron.

The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) has deployed unarmed civilians for more than 20 years to report on human rights violations.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the observers of “acting against” his country.

Palestinians said Israel was showing contempt for international agreements.

Saeb Erekat, of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, called on the UN to deploy a permanent international force across the occupied West Bank in response.”

Later on readers were told that:

The TIPH was established in 1994 in the wake of an attack by a settler at the Ibrahimi Mosque that left 29 Palestinians dead. The force was deployed for three months but its mandate was not extended.

The 1997 agreement saw the TIPH return to Hebron, with Denmark, Norway, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey contributing observers.

Its mission is to assist in “monitoring and reporting efforts to maintain normal life in the city of Hebron, thus creating a sense of security among the Palestinians”.

The TIPH presents its findings to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, both of which are required to agree every six months to extend the force’s mandate.”

The BBC’s report did not adequately clarify to audiences the one-sided nature of the TIPH’s mandate. As Professor Eugene Kontorovich notes:

“The anti-Israel bias of TIPH is built into its mandate, which tasked organization members with the one-sided mission of “promoting by their presence a feeling of security” for Palestinians in Hebron. Protecting Jews from constant terrorist attacks is not part of their job description.” 

Nowhere in the BBC’s report was there any mention of the incidents involving TIPH personnel which took place last year – the assault of an Israeli child by a Swiss member of the group and the slashing of the tyres of an Israeli owned vehicle by an Italian member. As the Jerusalem Post notes, those incidents were a factor in the call to review the renewal of the TIPH mandate.

Predictably the report erased from its section on the background of Hebron all mention of the city’s Jewish history, including the fact that Jews lived there uninterrupted for hundreds of years until the 1929 massacre. Readers did however see a dubious ‘religious importance’ rating.

“Hebron has been a flashpoint for decades.

The city is the location of the Tomb of the Patriarchs/Ibrahimi Mosque, which is revered by Jews, Muslim and Christians as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s burial place. The site is the second holiest in Judaism and the fourth holiest in Islam.

Under a 1997 agreement, 80% of Hebron is under the full control of the Palestinian Authority and the other 20% is under full Israeli control.

The Israeli-controlled sector is home to about 40,000 Palestinians and several hundred Jewish settlers living in settlement compounds. The presence of the settlers there is considered illegal under international law, although Israel disagrees with this.”

The 1997 Hebron Protocol was of course signed by Israel and the PLO and it followed on from the 1995 Interim Agreement signed by the same parties and witnessed by the USA, Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Norway and the EU. Apparently the BBC would have its audiences believe that the PLO signed an agreement facilitating the residence of Israelis in Hebron in violation of “international law”.

The second story in this BBC report is unconnected to the article’s subject matter. It relates to an incident which took place on January 26th, the details of which are as yet unclear and which is currently under investigation. In the original version of the report BBC audiences first got a one hundred and eighty-five word account of one version of the story.

“There was no immediate response from the UN, but the Organisation for the High Commissioner for Human Rights did express deep concern about an unrelated incident in the West Bank village of al-Mughayyir on Saturday in which a Palestinian man was shot in the back and killed.

OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva that its monitoring suggested Hamdi Taleb Naasan died after a group of up to 30 Israelis from the nearby Israeli settler outpost of Adei Ad attacked Palestinian farmers in their fields and then fired live ammunition towards al-Mughayyir.

The confrontation led to six villagers being shot with live rounds, leaving three of them in a serious condition, he said, adding that it was unclear whether any settlers were also injured.

“When Israeli security forces did finally intervene, the main focus of their action appears to have been to disperse the Palestinian villagers using tear gas,” Mr Colville said.

“Three more Palestinians were injured by live ammunition after the intervention of the security forces. However it is not clear at this point whether they were shot by settlers or by soldiers.”

After being told that the army is investigating the incident, readers then got a fifty-three word long account (including an unhelpful link to a Ha’aretz article requiring subscription) of the other version of the incident.

The settlers have said the troops also used live ammunition, and that the confrontation began when a teenager was attacked and stabbed by Palestinians on the outskirts of al-Mughayyir.

According to the settlers, armed civilian emergency responders who came to the teenager’s aid opened fire in self-defence after villagers threw stones at them.”

So while violent acts by foreigners in the TIPH ‘peacemaking’ delegation were excluded from this report, one version of an as yet unclarified story was allocated three and a half times more coverage than the other.

 

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BBC’s Saudi women’s rights reports fall short

Two articles relating to the issue of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia have appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ in recent days:

Rahaf al-Qunun: Saudi woman ends airport hotel standoff  January 7th

Why a Saudi woman can be arrested for disobeying her father January 8th

Among the ‘related reading’ offered to BBC audiences in both those articles is a link billed “Saudi women on what life’s really like” which leads to a video produced by the BBC in November 2017 in which just two women from Saudi Arabia were interviewed, one of whom was quoted in the video’s synopsis as follows:

“There’s a huge misconception of Saudi women: We are guided by men, or driven by men. That is not true.”

While that link may seem like an odd choice for inclusion in two reports relating to the story of a Saudi Arabian woman trying to flee male members of her family, this is not the first time that BBC audiences have seen the corporation downplaying the issues faced by women in Saudi Arabia.

In the spring of 2015 the BBC produced several reports informing audiences that “progress” was being made by women in Saudi Arabia despite what the BBC euphemistically chose to term “social restrictions”.

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

On International Women’s Day 2016 the BBC asked visitors to its website “Are Saudi women really that oppressed?”.

BBC Trending’s preposterous International Women’s Day question

The January 8th article mentions that Saudi Arabia “ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 2000” while noting the “concern” of “UN experts” at “the country’s failure to adopt a specific law prohibiting discrimination against women”.

The BBC did not however bother to inform readers that in October 2018 the same United Nations announced that Saudi Arabia would continue to be a member of the Human Rights Council and that in 2017 Saudi Arabia was elected to a four-year term on the UN’s women’s rights commission.

BBC silent on Saudi Arabia’s new UN commission seat

As we see the BBC still appears to consider it necessary to promote an ‘alternative’ view of the issue of women’s rights in a country it describes as “conservative” but which – despite lately granting women the right to drive, watch football and take sports lessons in school – is still one of the worst places on earth for gender equality. And once again we see that the BBC has nothing at all to say about a country ranked 141 out of 149 on women’s rights just last year being given a seat on UN human rights bodies.

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the Times of Israel Professor Avi Bell asks “Is ‘East Jerusalem’ Palestinian Territory?“.

“Logic, it seems, is not the currency of a successful legal strategy in international courts. The politicized ICJ may bow to Palestinian demands to call Jerusalem a “corpus separatum” even as the politicized ICC bows to Palestinian demands to recognize “East Jerusalem” as “occupied Palestinian territory.” Experience teaches that Palestinian claims need not persuade or even be logically consistent to succeed, as long as they aim at disadvantaging Israel. The tragedy is that the ICC and ICJ are now joining hands in helping the PLO make a mockery of international law.”

2) The ITIC discusses “Security Council Resolution 1701 and Its Systematic Violation by Hezbollah and Iran“.

“The key paragraphs of Resolution 1701 and the security arrangements relating to the area of Lebanon south of the Litani River have not been enforced during the twelve years since the Second Lebanon War. The Lebanese government is not the sole sovereign in Lebanon as determined by the resolution, and the weapons of the Lebanese army are not the only weapons south of the Litani River (or in all Lebanon). Hezbollah’s military infrastructure, which is deployed in south Lebanon and in the north, was reconstructed and upgraded after the Second Lebanon War. The tunnels recently exposed on the Israeli border are further manifestations of the lack of the resolution’s enforcement. The area south of the Litani River was not demilitarized. Hezbollah continues as its main military power, despite the routine security activities in south Lebanon of the Lebanese army, supported by UNIFIL. Iran continues smuggling weapons into Lebanon by air, by sea and overland, and the Lebanese government makes no real attempt to stop it.”

3) At the INSS Raz Zimmt assesses “A Year of Protests in Iran“.

“The wave of protests that erupted in December 2017-January 2018 in dozens of cities in Iran ebbed after about two weeks, but continued – albeit with less intensity and on a smaller scale – throughout the year. The continuation of the protests reflects the intensity of public frustration that has grown against the background of a deteriorating economic situation and the widening gap between the public and the regime; it is further fed by the citizens’ growing distrust of the political establishment and its failure to provide solutions for their distress. Looking ahead, the deterioration of the economic situation, together with the fundamental problems of the Islamic Republic, contain potential for a future protest movement. However, whether such a movement will become a real threat to stability depends on the regime’s ability to overcome its basic weaknesses, to unite the middle class with the workers, to improve organization at a national level, and to raise political demands that undermine the very existence of the Islamic regime. Iran has faced considerable economic challenges in the past. Over the years the public has been able to adjust to difficult situations, and the regime still has the means to suppress any protests that show signs of spreading. At this stage, it appears that the regime is unable to prevent the continuation of protest, but at the same time, the demonstrators are unable to undermine the foundations of the regime.”

4) Col. Richard Kemp’s submission on behalf of the High Level Military Group to the ‘United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 Protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’ (the ‘Great Return March’) is available here.

“The terms of this mandate are self-evidently biased against the State of Israel and the IDF. The context cited: ‘the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests’ make clear that the UNHRC either failed to understand what was happening on the ground or deliberately misrepresented the reality. In addition, the Commission’s mandate terms the Gaza Strip ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’, which it is not. This gives us cause for concern that the COI which has accepted this biased mandate will fail to produce a fair and objective report into these events. This concern is reinforced by the history of anti-Israel bias by the UNHRC and previous COIs into violence in Gaza.”

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, one of the themes promoted during the first fourteen minutes of a live broadcast from the Gaza Strip in the December 17th edition of the ‘Today’ programme was the claim that the “deplorable” situation in the Gaza Strip is essentially the result of the “blockade” imposed by Israel and Egypt. 

An additional theme which is not new to BBC reporting and was again promoted in this broadcast is that of US cuts in donations to UNRWA – but, as ever, without any explanation of the issues at the root of the long-standing debate surrounding the UN agency that are vital to proper understanding of that story.

The second part of the ‘Today’ programme’s live broadcast from the Gaza Strip (from 36:07 here) was introduced by Mishal Husain with a reference to an announcement from the UK government mentioned earlier by the BBC’s economics correspondent Darshini David. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “The government has announced £5 million worth of emergency food aid for Palestinians in Gaza as the UN appeals for funds to prevent 2 million people who live here slipping deeper into poverty.”

In contrast to Husain’s claim that all two million residents of the Gaza Strip are living in poverty, the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs reported in June of this year that 53% of the territory’s residents were actually defined as such. Husain then introduced her Jerusalem based colleague Yolande Knell.

Husain: “The economic position in Gaza has long been dire, Yolande, is international concern now growing?”

Knell: “It does seem to be and there is this report that’s been published by the UN humanitarian office here talking about how there are deepening needs among Palestinians. But what’s really interesting is the fact it’s launching this appeal for $350 million today for humanitarian relief for Palestinians but it says that it’s actually targeting fewer people – half a million fewer – than it targeted here just in this last year. And the report is very frank about how it is because of record low funding and of course over the past year what’s happened is the US has slashed its funding to the Palestinians including to the UN agency that provides services to 5 million refugees across the Middle East. It has promised $365 million but ended up paying just $60 million and on top of that it cut aid – 200 million – to development projects. And that really links to this other announcement that we’re seeing this morning from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – UNRWA – where the UK’s Department for International Development saying it’s going to give this money – £5 million – to provide emergency food to over 60,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza at risk of hunger.”

Later on in the same programme (2:06:21 here) listeners heard a news bulletin which also included a report from Knell.

Newsreader: “The United Nations is launching an appeal to raise £280 million for people living in the Palestinian territories. It says that many are in critical humanitarian need after a big drop in funding from the United States. Here’s our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell.”

Knell: “This report describes a worsening situation in the Palestinian territories. In Gaza health services have been overwhelmed by casualties from protests along the perimeter fence with Israel. But the UN humanitarian affairs office says that next year it will target just 1.4 million people here – half a million fewer than this year. Its local head points to record low funding and what he calls attacks to delegitimise humanitarian action. This year as tensions grew with Palestinian leaders, Washington cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for development and for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. Through an emergency appeal much of UNRWA’s deficit has been filled and today the UK says it will provide new funds for over 60,000 refugees in Gaza at risk of hunger.”

The UNOCHA press release on which this news item is based can be seen here.

As is usual in BBC content we see uncritical amplification of UN claims and campaigns with no effort made to provide audiences with background information concerning questions such as why there are “5 million [Palestinian] refugees across the Middle East”, why people living under the rule of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are still classified as refugees or what were the reasons behind the US administration’s decision to cut donations to UNRWA.

Entirely predictably Yolande Knell’s reporting failed to inform BBC audiences that the sum cited in the appeal launched by UNOCHA and the PA’s Minister for Social Development (who Knell apparently ‘forgot’ to mention) is similar to that allocated by the Palestinian Authority in its 2018 budget to payments to convicted terrorists and terrorists’ families. As PMW points out:

“Instead of the UN asking donor countries to contribute $350 million to provide for Palestinian humanitarian needs, the UN should be joining the unequivocal call from many governments that the PA immediately stop squandering the $355 million dollars of its own funds on its “Pay for Slay” policy that incentivizes and rewards terrorism, and instead spend that money on needy Palestinians.

Were the UN to adopt this basic and elementary moral requirement, it would strengthen the international forces that are mobilizing against the PA’s terror support.  

Abolishing the “Pay for Slay” policy would re-open the door for the PA to receive the approximately $215 million dollars of US aid to the PA withheld by the Taylor Force Act. Abolishing the PA’s “Pay for Slay” policy would also avert the imminent deduction by Israel of the PA’s expenditure on the salary program from the tax revenues Israel collects and transfers to the PA. Moreover, it would ensure that the PA would not lose its Australian funding and part of its funding from The Netherlands.”

The story told to BBC Radio 4 audiences, however, excludes any mention of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas shared priority of funding and rewarding terror over meeting the needs of their people. Instead Yolande Knell and her colleagues prefer to promote a simplistic story about poor, hungry Palestinians.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

One to listen out for tomorrow on BBC Radio 4

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The Kohelet Forum has published the second part of a report on “The Scope of European and Multinational Business in the Occupied Territories”.

“There are numerous territories around the world currently under belligerent occupation, where the occupying power has allowed or facilitated the movement of settlers into the occupied territory.
In all these cases, this is done over the vigorous objection of the occupied party and is at odds with its sovereignty or self-determination.
Among the most salient examples are Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara and Turkey’s of northern Cyprus. Both of these have seen massive government-backed settlement enterprises that dwarf anything in the West Bank. The majority of the population in these territories now consists of settlers, fundamentally undermining the possibility of self-determination or a political solution. There are also settlers in Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and the Occupied Ukrainian Territories. In all these cases, foreign companies actively support the various settlement enterprises. These activities include extracting natural resources from the territories, providing infrastructure support to the occupying power, and in general, making the settlement enterprises more economically viable.”

2) The ITIC reports on a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rally held in the PA controlled town of al Bireh.

“On November 10, 2018, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) held a rally to mark the anniversary of the founding of the organization and the death of its founder, Fathi Shqaqi. The rally was held in a large hall in al-Bireh where a recorded speech by Ziyad al-Nakhalah, the newly elected PIJ leader, was played. Al-Nakhalah stressed the importance of the armed struggle against Israel and called on the residents of the West Bank “to lead the armed resistance against Israel as they did in the [second] intifada in 2000” [during which the PIJ was one of the most prominent organizations in carrying out suicide bombing attacks].

Al-Bireh is next to Ramallah (and about 15 kilometers, or about nine miles, from Jerusalem). It is an important administrative center for the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Judea and Samaria, and some of the PA’s offices are located there. It can be assumed that al-Nakhalah’s speech could not have been given in al-Bireh without the authorization, or at least the prior knowledge, of the PA’s security services.”

3) MEMRI takes a look at reports concerning claims of efforts to change Syrian demography.

“Throughout the Syria war, websites opposed to the Assad regime have repeatedly claimed that this regime and its ally Iran were using the war to change Syria’s demography by expelling Sunni populations, deemed a potential threat to the regime, and bringing in Shi’ites, who are more likely to support it. According to these reports, the Assad regime and Iran use a variety of methods – including threats, siege and starving – to compel Sunnis to emigrate and then seize their property and replace them with elements loyal to the regime, including non-Syrians. President Assad outlined this policy in a July 2015 speech, saying, “The homeland does not belong to those who live there, nor to those who hold a passport or are citizens. The homeland belongs to those who protect and guard it.” In the recent months, several websites reported that the regime was naturalizing thousands and even millions of Shi’ites, members of Iranian and Iran-backed militias that are fighting alongside the Syrian army.”

4) On Universal Children’s Day PMW reviewed Palestinian Authority messaging to children.

“Today, November 20th, is known as Universal Children’s Day because it is the day the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) and the Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989). 

The PA joined the UN’s Convention of the Rights of the Child in 2014. […]

The PA and Fatah leadership is abusing Palestinian children by presenting terrorists as heroes, “Martyrs” as role models, and glorifying the murder of Jews and Israelis. Sports tournaments, names of schools, school books, cultural events, and even music videos glorify terrorist murderers and urge Palestinian youth to aspire to kill and be killed.” 

Omission and imbalance in BBC report on ‘Bedouin village’

On September 5th the BBC News website published a 609 word report headlined “Khan al-Ahmar: Israel court approves demolition of Bedouin village” which opened by telling readers that:

“Israel’s Supreme Court has rejected appeals against the demolition of a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank whose fate has been a subject of international concern.

Judges upheld an order to raze Khan al-Ahmar, where about 180 people live in shacks between two Jewish settlements. […]

An injunction against the demolition will expire within seven days.”

The caption to the main photograph illustrating the article, together with a later paragraph, suggests that the BBC’s journalists did not read the court’s decision in which it is stated that the settlement was built during the last twenty years.

“Khan al-Ahmar was established in the 1950s by members of a tribe from the Negev desert”

“Khan al-Ahmar, which is 8km (5 miles) east of Jerusalem, was established in the early 1950s by members of a semi-nomadic tribe the UN says was displaced from the Negev desert in southern Israel.”

Readers are told that:

“Israel’s government says the structures were built illegally, but Palestinians say permits are impossible to obtain.”

And:

“Palestinians complain that the Israeli military refuses the vast majority of Palestinian building requests and say they are left with little option except to build without permission.”

They are not however informed that the court’s decision notes that the residents make no claim of ownership of the said land and that the site – and in particular the illegally built school – is too close to a major highway for construction to be permitted there under planning laws. Neither were they informed that the court stressed the importance of an equal approach to illegal construction, regardless of the ethnicity of the petitioner.

The article states:

“Since 2009, residents have been fighting demolition orders issued for the wooden and corrugated iron shacks in which they live, as well as a clinic, mosque and an Italian-funded primary school.”

Readers are not informed of the relevant fact that the residents were represented by lawyers hired by the Palestinian Authority.

The article states:

“In May, the Supreme Court rejected petitions to prevent the demolitions at Khan al-Ahmar and the relocation of its residents to a site designated by the Israeli government near the Palestinian town of Abu Dis.”

Readers were not told that the offer of relocation includes a free plot of land already connected to utilities at a site with existing services including a school.

The BBC’s report includes the following:

“Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman congratulated the court on Wednesday’s ruling upholding the demolition order, which he said had come despite “the orchestrated hypocrisy of Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas], the Left and European states”.

“Nobody is above the law, nobody will keep us from acting on our sovereignty and responsibility as a state,” he added.”

Readers found no explanation of that reference to “European states” and so remain unaware of the fact that some of the illegal construction at that site and others was carried out by the EU.

In addition, readers found forty words of comment from what is described as the PLO’s “human rights body” along with a link to the B’tselem website. The only other link in the article leads readers to the UNRWA website and readers are provided with 145 words of highly questionable legal interpretation attributed to “the UN”.

In other words, in addition to the serious omissions in the BBC’s representation of this story, audiences saw four times more comment (and two links) from outside sources opposing the evacuation of the illegally constructed settlement than they did opinions in favour. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Wyre Davies plays wingman to anti-Israel NGOs

THE LA TIMES, THE BEDOUIN OF KHAN AL AHMAR AND ‘THEIR LAND’  (CAMERA)

BBC News ignores UN Secretary General’s Gaza proposals

Last month viewers of the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk’ heard from the PLO’s envoy to the UN that the UN Secretary General was due to present a report.

Riyad Mansour: “And then we went to the General Assembly and we have a resolution that was adopted by 120 countries versus 8 calling for providing international protection for the civilian population in the occupied Palestinian territory and the Secretary General was asked to submit a report with recommendations and suggestions to provide protection for the civilian population – the Palestinian civilian population – including international protection mechanism and he has until the 13th of next month to submit that report. We are engaging his teams with ideas and suggestions to fulfil such a demand for providing protection for the civilian population under Israeli occupation.”

BBC audiences were not told either at the time or in that ‘Hardtalk’ programme that the UN GA’s June 13thresolution titled “Protection of the Palestinian civilian population” was adopted:

“…following the Assembly’s rejection of a United States-sponsored amendment — by a vote of 78 against to 59 in favour, with 26 abstentions — which would have condemned Hamas for repeatedly firing rockets into Israel and inciting violence along the boundary fence.  It would have demanded that Hamas cease all violent activity and expressed grave concern over the destruction of the Kerem Shalom crossing by actors in Gaza.”

On August 17th the UN Secretary General presented his report.

“Guterres outlined four options, but he did not make a specific recommendation. He noted that all options would need the cooperation of both parties, a sustained cessation of hostilities and additional resources to ensure they were viable. […]

Armed UN peacekeepers or armed forces from a group of like-minded states operating under a United Nations mandate could be deployed to offer physical protection, Guterres said. This option, however, would need a Security Council mandate and the United States, a close ally of Israel, would likely wield its veto.

A UN or non-UN civilian observer mission could be deployed “with a specific mandate to report on protection and well-being issues and provide local mediation,” Guterres said. This would also need a UN-mandate.

A third option could be expanding current UN programs and development and humanitarian aid to address the needs of Palestinian civilians more effectively and strengthen Palestinian institutions, he wrote.

The final option could be to send additional UN human rights, coordination and political officers to boost monitoring and reporting on the situation and increase the UN’s visibility, Guterres said.”

Ignoring the fact that the terrorist organisation that rules the Gaza Strip and initiated the violence that is the topic of the UN GA resolution that required his writing of this report has absolutely no intention of making peace with Israel, Guterres said:

“The best way to ensure the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population is still the negotiation of a comprehensive, just and final settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict”

Curiously, BBC audiences have not seen any coverage of that report from the UN Secretary General – or the criticisms that followed. Writing at Ha’aretz, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner noted for example that:

“…the idea of a UN military or police force to deter or protect civilians is useless in the Palestinian arena due to the already highly politicized reality. Israel has learned that it cannot depend on international forces like UNIFIL and UNDOF for its security concerns.”

Obviously should any of Guterres’ proposals be translated into practical steps, BBC audiences will be lacking in the background information which would enable them to “engage fully” with that story.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The CST’s Dr Dave Rich discusses “The arrogance of Labour’s antisemitism definition“.

“…one-by-one Labour has abandoned the basic principles of anti-racism when it comes to dealing with antisemitism and Jews. Instead of allowing its Jewish MPs and its Jewish affiliate to define antisemitism and lead the fight against it, the Labour leadership insists on doing this for itself. Whereas anti-discrimination law focuses on detrimental outcomes, Labour insists on proof of “anti-Semitic intent”. Consultation with external Jewish leadership bodies ranges from perfunctory to non-existent.

As long as Labour continues with this course of action, its problem of antisemitism will keep getting worse – and Jewish disenchantment with the Party will become ever more entrenched.”

2) UN Watch has published a report titled “The United Nations and Antisemitism: 2008-2017 Report Card“.

“Anti-racism is the defining ideology of the United Nations and its human rights mechanisms. Yet all too often, as documented in this report’s comprehensive examination of the actions of key UN officials, agencies and experts over the past decade, it seems that the UN sees racism everywhere, and antisemitism nowhere. […]

UN plenaries like the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, which enact hundreds of resolutions a year, including on subjects related to racial and religious discrimination, failed to address the threat of antisemitism, other than in a few passing words included in general statements. Until 2010, both the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council adopted annual resolutions focused on the “defamation of Islam and Muslims,” mandating special reports, yet there was never one resolution to address anti-Jewish hatred and violence.”

3) The FDD has published a report concerning “The Escalation of Conflict between Israel and Iran in War-Torn Syria“.

“Until recently, Israel’s policy in Syria effectively was “Lebanon plus,” geared toward postponing a third Lebanon war by preventing Hezbollah’s acquisition of what Israeli officials call “game-changing” systems, transferred under the fog of war from Iran via Syria. Such systems in the hands of Hezbollah would prevent the Israeli air force or navy from operating with impunity. They are longer-range, more precise missiles capable not only of reaching anywhere in Israel, but also of threatening strategic facilities and installations. […]

More recently, the Israeli approach has widened. The IDF has targeted weapons systems destined to remain in Syria – to be used by Iran or its proxies, in an attempt to establish a new hostile front on Israel’s borders.”

4) At the ITIC, Dr Raz Zimmt profiles “The Owj Arts and Media Organization“.

“The Arts and Media Owj Organization (literally: “climax”) is a non-governmental organization operating in Iran since the spring of 2011. The organization initiates, leads and promotes activity in the spheres of art and culture inspired by the values of the Islamic Revolution and in accordance with the official ideology of the Iranian regime. The Owj organization is tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the content distributed by it is used to promote radical worldviews reflective of the position of the Iranian regime and the revolutionary current in Iran. The productions of the organization reflect a critical position toward the nuclear policy adopted by President Rouhani, deep hostility toward the United States, Israel and recently Saudi Arabia as well. The anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist activism of the organization includes, among other facets, involvement in Holocaust denial and production of movies and television serials that reflect anti-Zionist and even anti-Semitic views.”

 

Examining UNHRC statements uncritically amplified by BBC News

On May 18th the BBC News website published an article headlined “Israel’s Gaza response ‘wholly disproportionate’ – UN rights chief” which was largely devoted to uncritical amplification of statements made by the current United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“The UN human rights chief says Israel used “wholly disproportionate” force against Palestinian border protests which have left over 100 people dead.

Zeid Raad al-Hussein told a meeting in Geneva that Gazans were effectively “caged in a toxic slum” and Gaza’s occupation by Israel had to end. […]

Mr Zeid told the emergency session on Gaza that the “stark contrast in casualties on both sides is… suggestive of a wholly disproportionate response” by Israel.

An Israeli soldier was “reportedly wounded, slightly, by a stone” on Monday, he said, while 43 Palestinians were killed at the site of the protests. Seventeen more Palestinians were killed away from what he called the “hot spots”.

He said there had been “little evidence of any [Israeli] attempt to minimise casualties”. Israel’s actions might, he said, “constitute ‘wilful killings’ – a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention”, an international law designed to protect civilians under occupation.

Mr Zeid said he supported a call for an “international, independent and impartial” investigation into the violence in Gaza, adding that “those responsible for violations must in the end be held accountable”.

“The occupation must end,” he said, “so the people of Palestine can be liberated, and the people of Israel liberated from it.

“End the occupation, and the violence and insecurity will largely disappear.””

Of course Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip almost thirteen years ago but “the violence” on Hamas’ part has only increased since.

Without clarifying either that the Gaza Strip was included in the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a homeland for the Jewish people or that it was occupied by Egypt between 1948 and 1967, the BBC told readers of this article that:

“Israel occupied Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war. Although it withdrew its forces and settlers in 2005, the UN still considers the territory occupied because Israel retains control over the territory’s air space, coastal waters and shared border.”

This is not the first time that the BBC has made that claim regarding the UN’s approach. As has been pointed out here before:

“In January 2012, responding to a question from UN Watch, the UN’s chief spokesperson explained why the UN still refers to the Gaza Strip as ‘occupied’ even though Hamas has said it is not and Israel disengaged from the area in 2005.

Spokesperson:  “Under resolutions adopted by both the Security Council and the General Assembly on the Middle East peace process, the Gaza Strip continues to be regarded as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  The United Nations will accordingly continue to refer to the Gaza Strip as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory until such time as either the General Assembly or the Security Council take a different view.”

Question:  “Can I follow up on that?  It is the legal definition of occupation and why is Gaza considered occupied?”

Spokesperson:  “Well, as I have just said, there are Security Council and General Assembly resolutions that cover this.  For example, there was a Security Council resolution adopted on 8 January 2009 — 1860 — and that stressed that the Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967.  And as you know, Security Council resolutions do have force in international law.

Furthermore, there is a resolution from the General Assembly from 20 December 2010, and while it noted the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank, it also stressed, in quotes, “the need for respect and preservation of the territorial unity, contiguity and integrity of all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”.  So just to repeat that the United Nations will continue to refer to the Gaza Strip as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory until either the General Assembly or the Security Council take a different view on the matter.””

In other words, no mention of “air space, coastal waters and shared border” whatsoever but the assertion that if part of the territory is occupied, then all of the territory is considered occupied, since there are UN resolutions declaring that the two territories are considered united.

The only criticism of Zeid Raad al-Hussein’s statements seen in this article came in the form of 66 words describing generalised reactions from Israel’s Ambassador and The US Chargé d’Affaires. The BBC itself did not attempt to provide audiences with information which would enable them to judge the accuracy of his claims. 

UN Watch, however, has done just that in a useful article titled “Examining Statements by Top UN Human Rights Officials on Gaza Violence” which analyses statements made by Zeid Raad al-Hussein (who also appeared on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on May 18th) and the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine Michael Lynk who likewise appeared in BBC coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ – see here and here.

For example, with regard to Zeid’s claim that “[t]he stark contrast in casualties on both sides is also suggestive of a wholly disproportionate response…” UN Watch notes that:

“This is a completely incorrect statement of the law. As explained above proportionality in IHL [International Humanitarian Law] is not a comparison of the numbers, but a question of whether the military commander made the assessment that the expected civilian casualties would not be excessive in relation the anticipated military gain in that situation. According to Zeid, Israel must allow its soldiers and citizens to be attacked and killed before it can fight back in self-defense. That is not the law.”

With regard to Zeid’s quoting of Hamas-supplied casualty statistics without any independent verification (“…43 Palestinians were killed at the site of the protests. Seventeen more Palestinians were killed away from what he called the “hot spots”.”), UN Watch comments:

“Saying how many “Palestinians” or “demonstrators” were killed wrongly implies that all those killed were peaceful, non-violent protesters. This is an outright lie. Hamas’s own political bureau member Salah al-Bardawil, admitted on May 16, 2018 that 50 of those killed in the previous day’s clashes had been Hamas operatives, and called them “martyrs.””

The BBC’s uncritical and unquestioning amplification of Zeid’s statements includes the claim that:

“Israel’s actions might, he said, “constitute ‘wilful killings’ – a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention”, an international law designed to protect civilians under occupation.”

However, UN Watch explains that:

“…Palestinian rioters directly participating in hostilities are not entitled to the protection afforded to civilians. Article 51(3) of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions (1949) permits attacks on civilians “for such time as they take direct part in hostilities.” According to the ICRC commentary, this means “acts of war which by their nature or purpose are likely to cause actual harm to the personnel and equipment of the enemy armed forces.” Therefore, engaging in violent acts intended to breach Israel’s border fence with Gaza and/or cause harm on the Israeli side of the fence would cause rioters to lose protected civilian status.”

It comes of course as no surprise whatsoever to see the BBC unquestioningly amplify statements made by the head of a UN body that the BBC regularly quotes and promotes uncritically, especially as those statements dovetail with many of its own regularly promoted themes such as ‘disproportionate’ Israeli actions and ‘occupation’ of the Gaza Strip.

Nevertheless, the BBC cannot claim to be providing audiences with information that will help them “understand” this subject – as it is obliged to do – by blindly regurgitating statements ostensibly based on facts and law without establishing their accuracy and while failing to provide any alternative view.

Related Articles:

BBC News website amends a report with an inaccuracy

BBC ignores UNHRC’s nomination of controversial official

 

BBC News website corrects Palestinian envoy’s title

As noted here earlier in the week, a March 31st BBC report relating to the previous day’s violent rioting along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip closed by telling readers that:

“Riyad Mansour is of course not “[t]he UN envoy for Palestine”: he is a Palestinian envoy to the UN who holds the title “Permanent Observer of Palestine”. BBC Watch has requested a correction to that inaccuracy.”

The BBC News website responded:

“Thank you for getting in touch about our article reporting that the Israeli military has warned it could take action against “terrorist targets” inside the Gaza Strip. (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43603199)

You raise a fair point and we’ve since amended this sentence to refer to “The Palestinian envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour…””

No footnote has been appended to the report and the continuing absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website of course means that anyone who read this article in the first three days after its publication will still be under the erroneous impression that the UN has an envoy “for Palestine” called Riyad Mansour.