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.

 

 

 

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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.”

Weekend long read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

BBC portrayal of US decision to leave UNHRC – part two

In part one of this post we saw how the BBC News website’s portrayal of the June 19th US announcement that it would leave the UN Human Rights Council failed to clarify to audiences that the decision – which had been on the cards for a year – came about because the UNHRC did not carry out what the US considers to be “essential reforms”.

The same story was the topic of an item aired in the June 19th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’. Presenter Ritula Shah introduced it (from 22:35 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Shah: “Well a body that might have been charged with examining Italy’s plans for the Roma is the United Nations Human Rights Council and in the last few minutes the United States has announced that it’s pulling out of that organisation. The US ambassador to the UN is Nikki Haley.”

Listeners then heard a recording of part of the statement made by the US Ambassador at the press conference at which the US decision was announced.

Haley: “…the United States is officially withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council. In doing so, I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from human rights commitments; on the contrary, we take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.”

Shah: “The mission of the UNHRC is to promote and protect human rights around the world. But when it was founded in 2006 the Bush administration declined to join, complaining that it included repressive states. The US has also repeatedly accused the body of being anti-Israel. Washington relented under President Obama and the US has been among the 47 countries elected to the council three times with the last 3-year term beginning in 2016.”

Remarkably the person chosen by ‘The World Tonight’ to comment on that story was the head of a political NGO with a long-standing anti-Israel bias who himself is infamous for having something of an obsession – particularly visible on Twitter – with that country. ‘Human Rights Watch’ had put out a press release concerning the US decision prior to this programme going on air and some of its themes were recycled in the Radio 4 item.

Shah: “Well Kenneth Roth is the executive director of the international human rights organisation ‘Human Rights Watch’ and he joins me now. [….] Kenneth Roth; Nikki Haley says the US hasn’t retreated from its human rights commitments. What difference then will its departure make – from the council – make?”

Roth: “Well I mean I wish it were true that the US hadn’t retreated from its commitments. I don’t see a lot of effort to stop, you know, Syrian slaughter of civilians, to stop the Saudis from indiscriminately bombing and starving civilians in Yemen, to defend the Rohingya who were ethnically cleansed from Myanmar. So you know I would quarrel with her there but in terms of the UN Human Rights Council, you know the US seems to be making two points. One is that some abusive states sit on the council – which is true. And that’s really the fault of different regions of the world who nominate them and then don’t give the UN General Assembly members the choice. They basically say ‘here are the same number of candidates as openings: take ’em or leave ’em’. And you have no choice but to take them.”

Shah: “So among the current members: the DRC, Egypt, China – all of which could be criticized for their human rights record.”

Roth’s agenda then became apparent:

Roth: “Absolutely. But even given that, the Human Rights Council has done a lot of good. It has actually done very serious investigations and condemnations in places like Syria, Yemen, North Korea, Myanmar. The problem is, it also criticises Israel and what this is really about…”

Shah [interrupts]: “But it’s a bit more than just criticising Israel, isn’t it? Israel is the only country that actually has a permanent space on its [the UNHRC] agenda – so-called Agenda 7 – which stipulates that alleged Israeli human rights abuses in the Palestinian conflict should be reviewed every council meeting.”

Roth: “That’s true and that’s something that the US has complained about a lot. But the truth is the US votes against resolutions criticising Israel even under other agenda items that apply to everybody. So it’s a bit hypocritical. Yes, they can complain about Agenda Item 7 but it never criticises Israel’s human rights abuses under this administration.”

Shah: “But it is strange that in that sense the US isn’t the only country that’s pointed this out. Even Ban Ki Moon the former UN Secretary General and the EU have pointed out that singling out Israel when there are human rights abuses all over the world is strange and slightly undermines the council’s credibility.”

Roth: “Well you know ‘Human Rights Watch’ has pointed this out as well but the real issue is, you know, does the Human Rights Council do more good than harm and it does enormous good in many places around the world.

Roth’s claim that HRW “has pointed this out” is apparently based on previous statements the NGO’s staff such as this one last year from its Geneva director, John Fisher, in which he effectively compared Israel’s human rights record to those of two repressive dictators infamous for murdering their own people:

“Fisher said Israel’s human rights record did warrant Council scrutiny, but the special focus was “a reasonable concern”.

“It is an anomaly that there is a dedicated agenda item in a way that there isn’t for North Korea or Syria or anything else,” he said.”

Roth went on to promote more of the messaging found in his NGO’s press release, even using the same words:

Roth: “But the Trump administration basically has a one-dimensional human rights policy. Ahm…it wants to defend Israel from criticisms above all else. So even given this…ahm…this fault in the council that it has this idiosyncratic stand-alone item for Israel, none the less most governments say we’re gonna work with the council; we can try to amend that Agenda Item but it does a lot of good. But the Trump administration’s in essence saying that we want to undermine the council because it criticises Israel…”

Shah: “Well it is interesting though….”

Roth: “…and the rest of the good work it does can be damned.”

Shah: “Item 7 was inserted after the organisation was formed. Perhaps if some sort of reform of the council to make it more balanced, to take into account the points that you’ve made at the beginning that it also includes countries that actually could be accused of human rights abuses, when actually its formation, its purpose is supposed to defend human rights and demand of its members the highest standards in defending human rights – those issues could have been tackled, couldn’t they?”

Shah failed to inform listeners that the US had been trying for a year to introduce exactly such reforms. Neither was it clarified to audiences that the “reform process” subsequently referred to by Roth is not the same one that the US was promoting or that his organisation – along with others – had actively opposed the US’s proposed reforms.

Roth: “Yes, there’s actually an active reform process underway at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. And the US government was participating in that process until now. Now it’s walking away. So ironically it’s less likely to get any reforms by turning its back on the council but that’s why I don’t think this move is really about reform. This move is about trying to discredit the council because the council criticises Israel and that one-dimensional policy is just fortunately not where the rest of the world is. The rest of the world recognises there’s a need to address serious problems elsewhere in the world as well.”

Ritula Shah closed the item there. Listeners were not informed – as BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality require – of the “particular viewpoint” of Ken Roth and Human Rights Watch on Israel despite that being of obvious relevance since his messaging was given an almost unchallenged stage.

And so, listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard a person presented as the head of an authoritative sounding “international human rights organisation” telling them repeatedly that the US withdrawal from the UNHRC is actually “really about” Israel and – as was the case in his organisation’s press release – that because of Israel, human rights in the rest of the world will suffer.  

Related Articles:

BBC portrayal of US decision to leave UNHRC – part one

BBC News website amplifies the NGO echo-chamber

 

BBC portrayal of US decision to leave UNHRC – part one

When the US Secretary of State and the US Ambassador to the UN announced on June 19th that their country would be leaving the UN Human Rights Council, the reason for that decision was made perfectly clear by Ambassador Haley:

“One year ago, I traveled to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. On that occasion, I outlined the U.S. priorities for advancing human rights and I declared our intent to remain a part of the Human Rights Council if essential reforms were achieved. These reforms were needed in order to make the council a serious advocate for human rights. For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias.

Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded. Human rights abusers continue to serve on and be elected to the council. The world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape scrutiny, and the council continues politicizing and scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in their ranks.

Therefore, as we said we would do a year ago if we did not see any progress, the United States is officially withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council. In doing so, I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from human rights commitments; on the contrary, we take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.”

In other words, the US decision – which had been on the cards for a year – came about because the UNHRC did not carry out what the US considers to be “essential reforms” within the stated time period.

The BBC News website reported that story on June 19th in an article with an interestingly punctuated headline: “US quits ‘biased’ UN human rights council“.

In a subsection that was added to later versions of the report with the title “Why has the US decided to quit?” BBC audiences were not told that the answer to that question is because reforms intended – as Ms Haley clearly stated – to “prevent the world’s worst human rights abusers from gaining Human Rights Council membership”, to “stop the council from protecting the world’s worst human rights abusers” and to end the “disproportionate focus and unending hostility towards Israel” did not receive sufficient public support from what the US Ambassador described as “like-minded countries”.

Instead, BBC audiences found an unclear and unhelpful narrative which makes no mention of the US reform plan – or the countries that declined to support it.

In another sub-section titled “What’s been the reaction?” readers were told that:

“UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the decision was “regrettable”, arguing that while reforms are needed, the UNHRC is “crucial to holding states to account”.”

Interestingly, BBC audiences were not told that just one day before the US announcement, the UK Foreign Secretary had criticised the UNHRC’s treatment of Israel.

“Britain on Monday urged the UN Human Rights Council to reform its treatment of Israel, joining the United States in demanding an end to what has been described as the body’s bias against the Jewish state.

Addressing the opening of the 38th council session, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson criticized the council’s controversial Agenda Item 7, a permanent fixture on the schedule exclusively devoted to discussing rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“We share the view that the dedicated Agenda Item 7 focused solely on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace, and unless things change we shall vote next year against all resolutions introduced under Item 7,” Johnson said.”

Readers may recall that the British government made a similar statement in March 2017:

“We are putting the Human Rights Council on notice,” Britain warned in a statement. “If things do not change, in the future we will adopt a policy of voting against all resolutions concerning Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Syrian and Palestinian Territories.””

However, the BBC failed to report that story at the time and continues to present criticisms of the UNHRC’s infamous anti-Israel bias as coming solely from the United States while sidelining the bigger question of why democratic states did not join America’s efforts to bring about reform at the UN body. 

In part two of this post we will look at how the US announcement was presented on BBC radio.

Related Articles:

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What BBC audiences aren’t told about the UNHRC

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:

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BBC News ignores a case of UN anti-Israel bias

Back in March 2016 the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel rejects database of settlement-linked firms” that related to a resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council the previous day and which was discussed here.

“The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem says the database will provide a resource for any organisation wanting to divest from companies involved in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.

It will potentially include a number of Israeli and international firms working in industries from banking to construction and security services, our correspondent adds.”

Recently an Israeli communications company received a letter from the UNHRC which has been making local news.

“The UNHRC recently sent a letter to the CEO of Bezeq, a major Israeli telecoms firm, accusing it of promoting settlement activity in Israel and of providing cellular services to areas that the Council believes are Palestinian territory. […]

The UNHRC threatens to add Bezeq to its database of companies operating in what it claims are Israeli settlements and the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Bezeq owns approximately 40 real estate properties in the West Bank used for telecommunications infrastructure, and operates antennas throughout the West Bank,” the UNHRC wrote in its letter.”

“Bezeq provides landline, cellular, internet, and cable TV services to residents of settlements in the West Bank,” according to the UNHRC, which considers this activity a violation of its accords.”

Apparently some 150 such letters have been sent by the UNHRC.

“The United Nations reportedly sent letters to some 150 Israeli and overseas companies, threatening to add them to its blacklist of firms operating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. […]

An unnamed western diplomat told Haaretz that more than half of the companies that received the warning letter were Israeli, about 30 were from the US and the remainder from countries including Germany, Norway and South Korea. The diplomat added that [UN Human Rights Commissioner] Hussein also sent copies of the letter to foreign ministries of several countries who are home to companies which may be added to the blacklist.”

Despite the fact that numerous international companies do business in additional locations  categorised as occupied territories (e.g. north Cyprus, Western Sahara), the UN Human Rights Council has not passed resolutions mandating the creation of a database of businesses operating in any location other than those it views as being occupied Israel.

In recent days BBC audiences have seen and heard a number of reports concerning the UN (for example here, here and here) in which the phrase anti-Israel bias was placed in scare quotes and that bias was described in qualifying terms such as “perceived”.

The BBC, however, has ignored the story of the letters sent by the UNHRC that demonstrate clear anti-Israel bias at the United Nations. 

Related Articles:

BBC fails to tell the whole story of UNHRC anti-Israel resolution

BBC fails (again) to give audiences the full story in UN HRC article 

Weekend long read

1) At the Begin-Sadat center for Strategic Studies, Dr Alex Joffe examines the concept of ‘settler-colonialism’.

‘The settler-colonial argument against Israel posits that Zionism was an imperial tool of Britain (or, alternatively, that Zionism manipulated the British Empire); that Jews represent an alien population implanted into Palestine to usurp the land and displace the people; and that Israel has subjected Palestinians to “genocide,” real, figurative, and cultural.

According to this argument, Israel’s “settler colonialism” is a “structure, not an event,” and is accompanied by a “legacy of foundational violence” that extends back to the First Zionist Congress in 1897 or even before. With Zionism thus imbued with two forms of ineradicable original sin, violent opposition to Israel is legitimized and any forms of compromise, even negotiation, are “misguided and disingenuous because ‘dialogue’ does not tackle the asymmetrical status quo.”’

2) At the Tablet, Professor Richard Landes writes about “Europe’s Destructive Holocaust Shame“.

‘Of all the post-modern multi-narrative projects, re-centering and problematizing Christian European majority narratives promised quite an academic bounty. The Hebraic contribution could be used to challenge the self-absorbed narcissistic quality of the modern Western grand narrative that so grated on the post-modern sensibility. Certainly, given the abundance of evidence and subjects to explore, it was a promising avenue for research. And how appropriate for Germans to engage in that exploration of a culture which, in their self-destructive madness, their fathers had tried to exterminate.’

3) The Kohelet Forum has published a report documenting “The Scope of European and Multinational Business in the Occupied Territories”.

‘On March 24, 2016, at its 31st session, the UN General Assembly Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted Resolution 31/36, which instructed the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a “database” of business enterprises. The database will focus on one particular issue, which an earlier Council resolution claimed raises human rights issues: that “business enterprises have directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements.”

Such an activity—making blacklists of private organizations—is absolutely unprecedented for the HRC. And the current “research” program is focused on only one context: companies working in areas designated as being under Israeli civil jurisdiction in the West Bank under the Oslo Accords. […]

This report is designed to put the HRC’s “database” project in a global perspective. It examines business activity in support of settlement enterprises in occupied territories around the world. This study reveals that such business is ubiquitous and involves some of the world’s largest industrial, financial services, transport, and other major publicly traded companies. Such companies include Siemens, Crédit Agricole, BNP Paribas, Santander, Vodafone, Renault, Veolia, Trelleborg, Wärtsilä, and Turkish Airlines, to take just a few examples.’

4) A major study of antisemitism in Great Britain published this week by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) has received a lot of coverage including at UK Media Watch, the Times of Israel and the Jewish Chronicle.

‘Nearly half of people holding anti-Israel views across the political spectrum were revealed in the survey to also believe Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood.

Speaking at Tuesday night’s launch of the JPR survey, Dave Rich, Community Security Trust deputy director of communications, said the findings on left-wing antisemitism emerged after “prominent figures in Labour and Momentum repeatedly abused the memory of the Holocaust in pursuit of anti-Israel politics”.

Dr Rich said the poll findings – which are backed by CST – shattered the claim by some that antisemitism did not exist in Labour because it was an “anti-racist safe space”.’

BBC fails (again) to give audiences the full story in UN HRC article

The BBC has a long history of failing to properly report the UN Human Rights Council’s institutional bias against Israel and has never addressed the issue of why that frequently and overtly displayed prejudice exists.

BBC article on Israel & UN HRC omits important context

BBC does free PR for UN HRC

What BBC audiences aren’t told about the UNHRC 

In an article specifically referring to that bias, one would nevertheless have expected BBC audiences to be provided with the relevant factual information in the BBC’s own words. However, the report titled “US warning over its UN Human Rights Council role” which appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘US & Canada’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on June 6th presents the subject in equivocal language. [emphasis added]

“The US says it is considering what part it will play on the UN’s Human Rights Council, highlighting what it calls a “biased” stance on Israel.

UN ambassador Nikki Haley said it was “hard to accept” that resolutions had been passed against Israel, a US ally, but none were considered on Venezuela.” […]

“But what seems to anger the Trump administration most about the 47-member body is what she described as its “chronic anti-Israel bias”.

Writing in the Washington Post, she complained that the council had passed more than 70 resolutions against Israel but just seven against Iran. The Bush administration, believing the council would treat Israel unfairly, boycotted the body, a decision reversed by Barack Obama.”

The article does not bother to inform BBC audiences that Obama administration officials  – including John Kerry, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power – have made the exact same point as Ambassador Haley now raises, as have senators from across the American political spectrum. Neither are they told that the previous UN Secretary General also admitted that “[d]ecades of political maneuverings have created a disproportionate volume of resolutions, reports and conferences criticizing Israel” or that ten years beforehand, his predecessor Kofi Anan similarly admitted UN bias against Israel.

Readers are informed that Ms Haley said:

“It’s hard to accept that this council has never considered a resolution on Venezuela and yet it adopted five biased resolutions, in March, against a single country, Israel. It is essential that this council address its chronic anti-Israel bias if it is to have any credibility.”

And that:

“In March, the UK government accused the UNHRC of an “unacceptable pattern of bias” by singling Israel out as the only country subject to mandatory discussion at every session.”

However, the BBC’s report neither names nor provides readers with an explanation of the UNHRC’s permanent ‘Agenda Item 7’ – the clause which mandates that discussion of Israel at every session – and it fails to clarify that no other nation is subject to a similar practice.

Neither does it provide audiences with numerical data concerning UNHRC bias against Israel such as the fact that since its establishment in June 2006 and up to June 2016, sixty-eight of the 135 resolutions criticising countries that were adopted by the council have been against Israel.

And while the BBC does correctly inform its audiences that “[i]n recent months, it [UNHRC] has issued resolutions on human rights in North Korea, Haiti and Myanmar, among other countries”, it does not clarify that in the same period of time, no fewer than five anti-Israel resolutions were adopted.

Yet again we see that despite the fact that it not infrequently quotes and promotes UN produced material, the BBC refrains from providing its audiences with the full range of information necessary for understanding of the story of the UN’s endemic bias against Israel.

UK government’s UNHRC statement not newsworthy for the BBC

A former BBC anchor once described the corporation’s approach to the United Nations as follows:

“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.”

As has been documented here on numerous occasions over the years, in spite of its ‘public purposes’ remit, the BBC has continuously failed to provide its audiences with information that would enhance their understanding of anti-Israel bias at UN bodies such as the Human Rights Council and UNESCO. Rather, the corporation has found fit to provide uncritical amplification for assorted predetermined reports and resolutions.

Last week, as the UNHRC went about its usual business of passing anti-Israel resolutions, something rather unusual happened.

“The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted five resolutions critical of Israel on Friday, despite opposition from the US and an unprecedented critique from the UK.

Britain supported two of the five resolutions, but threatened to vote against any future such motions against the Jewish state because of the “bias” by the UN body.

“We are putting the Human Rights Council on notice,” Britain warned in a statement. “If things do not change, in the future we will adopt a policy of voting against all resolutions concerning Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Syrian and Palestinian Territories.””

In that statement the UK government explained:

“…we must also recognise the continuing terrorism, incitement and violence that Israel faces. According to the Quartet’s report last year, there were 250 terrorist attacks, leading to the deaths of at least 30 Israelis. Renewed Hamas efforts to rebuild their tunnels are a grave concern. The scourge of anti-Semitic incitement and glorification of terrorism continue. And for as long as terrorists are treated as martyrs, peace will prove distant.[…]

And yet neither “terrorism” nor “incitement” were a focus of this week’s Council discussions and resolutions. This is not acceptable.

Our enduring commitment to the universality of rights is also our source of enduring disappointment with the Council’s bias against Israel. Israel is a population of eight million in a world of seven billion. Yet since its foundation, the Human Rights Council has adopted 135 country-specific resolutions; 68 of which against Israel. Justice is blind and impartial. This selective focus on Israel is neither.

Israel is the only country permanently on the Human Rights Council’s agenda. Indeed when the Council voted to include Israel as a permanent item in 2007 – the so-called agenda Item 7 – it was Ban Ki Moon who expressed his deep disappointment “given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world.”

Nowhere is the disproportionate focus on Israel starker and more absurd than in the case of today’s resolution on the occupation of Syria’s Golan. Syria’s regime butchers and murders its people on a daily basis. But it is not Syria that is a permanent standing item on the Council’s agenda; it is Israel.”

Despite an extensive search, we have to date been unable to locate even one BBC report on that UK government statement across the wide variety of BBC platforms.