Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer looks at “The Fall of the Caliphate”.

“Even as the global media watch the last stand of the diehards at Baghouz, ISIS has already shifted its own focus. The intention is to build an infrastructure that will then, at the opportune moment, strike again in the cities of Iraq, and Syria, too.

 The reason this, or a rival Sunni Islamist project, is likely to once again emerge to prominence is that the final twilight of the caliphate at Baghouz will not settle any of the issues that led to its emergence, and of which it was a symptom.

 The main butcher of civilians over the last decade in the area in question has been the Assad regime.”

2) The ITIC documents “Reactions to Britain’s decision to ban Hezbollah”.

“Hezbollah responded formally to the decision on March 1, 2019, after the British Parliament approved it. Hezbollah vehemently rejected the accusations of terrorism “which the British government had fabricated” and stressed that the organization was a “resistance movement” against the Israeli occupation. The announcement attacks Britain, perceiving it as a “proxy in the ranks of the American patron.” The announcement stresses that Hezbollah would continue to “defend Lebanon, its liberty and its independence.””

3) At the INSS, Pnina Sharvit Baruch analyses “The Violent Events along the Gaza-Israel Border: The Report of the Commission of Inquiry of the Human Rights Council”.

“The report claims that the demonstrations were civilian in nature, had clearly stated political aims, and despite some acts of significant violence, did not constitute combat or a military campaign. Israel, however, contends that one cannot view the events as peaceful demonstrations within a state, since these were violent riots taking place along the border between two entities engaged in an armed conflict, organized and led by one of those parties, i.e., Hamas. The huge gap between the positions of Israel and the COI stems mainly from the fact that the report adopts entirely the viewpoint of the Palestinian victims, with no regard to the complex reality of the situation and to the ramifications of the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas.”

4) At the Tablet, Israel’s former state archivist Yaacov Lozowick writes about a topic the BBC has covered in the past in an article titled “The Myth of the Kidnapped Yemenite Children, and the Sin It Conceals”.

“In May 2016 we told the cabinet that we would gladly unseal the files, if they gave a green light. The cabinet appointed Minister Tzachi Hanegbi to oversee our efforts; Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked sent a top official to assist in redefining the rules of privacy in as liberal a manner as the lawyers could dare, in order to enable our efforts.

We scanned hundreds of thousands of pages in a few days, recruited dozens of students to speed the process and implemented an advanced knowledge management system. Thousands of files were closely examined, and mostly opened. The full archives went online at the end of December 2016. […]

There are no documents that tell or even hint at a governmental policy of kidnapping children for adoption. Not one.” 

 

 

 

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Disproportionate focus in BBC News report on UNHRC speech

On March 6th an article headlined “UN rights chief Bachelet warns of threat from ‘gross inequality’” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

Relating to an address given by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in Geneva on the same day, 51% of the 335-word report was devoted to one topic.

“She also criticised Israel over its blockade of Gaza, and said she regretted Israel’s “immediate dismissal” of a report by a UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry, “without addressing any of the very serious issues raised”.

UN experts said last week that Israeli security forces might have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity while responding to weekly mass Palestinian protests along the Gaza-Israel border last year.

The experts investigated the deaths of 189 Palestinians and said they found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers had shot at children, medics and journalists, even though they had been clearly recognisable as such.

“All parties concerned should exercise restraint as the date of March 30 approaches,” Ms Bachelet said, referring to the first anniversary of the start of the Palestinian protest campaign.

The Israeli government said the report was “hostile, mendacious and biased against Israel”. It has said its security forces have only opened fire in self-defence or on people trying to infiltrate its territory under the cover of the protests.”

The BBC also chose to tag the report “Gaza border clashes”.

Given the article’s focus on Israel, readers may understandably have assumed that Ms Bachelet’s speech – which lasted over half an hour and included over four thousand words – concentrated primarily on that country.

However, the section of the address highlighted (in part) by the BBC in fact made up just 5.7% of the UN Commissioner’s speech and the BBC did not bother to inform readers that, as noted by the Times of Israel:

“A transcript of Bachelet’s speech made no mention of Palestinian violence and breaches and destruction of the Israel-Gaza border fence during the protests.” 

In the 49% of the article not relating to Israel, the BBC names four other countries: Sudan, Haiti, France and Venezuela. Although Ms Bachelet’s address related to numerous other countries too, BBC audiences were told nothing of her comments on Zimbabwe, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, China, Myanmar, Syria and others. Neither did they see any reporting on her comments relating to migration and women’s rights which were more extensive than her criticism of Israel.

Once again the BBC’s disproportionate focus on Israel, which leads to the failure to meet its own editorial guidelines on due accuracy and impartiality, is in full view.

Related Articles: 

BBC News website unquestioningly amplifies UNHRC’s report

BBC Radio 4 tells listeners that Gaza rioters were ‘innocent civilians’

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 tells listeners that Gaza rioters were ‘innocent civilians’

As we saw in a previous post, a BBC News website article uncritically amplified the findings of a UN Human Right Council inquiry into the ‘Great Return March’ while portraying violent rioting as “protests”, failing to explain the aim of the demand for ‘right of return’, refraining from noting the long-standing UNHRC bias against Israel, failing to clarify the inbuilt bias of the inquiry’s mandate, ignoring the fact that a significant proportion of those killed in the violent rioting have been shown to be linked to terror groups and promoting the false notion that under-18s, paramedics and journalists are exclusively ‘civilians’.

Listeners to BBC Radio 4 also heard reports on the same story – but were they any better?

The February 28th edition of ‘The World Tonight’ included a news bulletin (from 03:45 here) in which audiences were told that: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Newsreader: “Israel has rejected a UN report which found that the country may have committed crimes against humanity when its soldiers fired on Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip last year. In nine months of demonstrations 189 people died including 35 children. Investigators said there could be no justification for killing children and people clearly marked as journalists and medics. The Israeli government described the document as a new record of hypocrisy and lies.”

In addition to failing to clarify that the report was commissioned by the partisan UNHRC, that portrayal once again frames violent rioting as “demonstrations” and the people taking part as “protesters”. As in the BBC’s written report, the investigators were blindly quoted with no clarification of the fact that some of those “children and people clearly marked as journalists and medics” have been shown to have links to terror groups.

Later on in the same programme (from 20:35), presenter James Coomarasamy interviewed one of the report’s authors in relation to what he began by describing as “a highly critical report by the Human Rights Council”.

Coomarasamy: “It examined the deaths last year of nearly 200 people who were shot by Israeli soldiers during protests along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. The Bangladeshi lawyer Sara Hossein is one of the report’s authors.”

Coomarasamy did not clarify to listeners that none of the report’s three authors have any expertise in military operations.

Following an overview from Hossein of the inquiry’s findings, Coomarasamy noted that:

22:14 Coomarasamy: “You call them civilian protests. You acknowledge though that there were militants among the protesters. They were organised by Hamas.”

Hossein: “We don’t actually say that the protests were purely organised by Hamas. We say that Hamas as a political body had involvement in the organising and that Hamas members did take part in the protests as well.”

Coomarasamy failed to challenge Hossein’s absurd claim of a distinction between ‘political’ Hamas and its ‘armed wing’.

Later on in the interview (23:50) Coomarasamy did raise the topic of UNHRC institutional bias against Israel but despite acknowledgement of that issue by former UN officials, presented it using the BBC’s favoured ‘Israel says’ formula.

Coomarasamy: “The Israeli government says that you have […] an obsessive hatred of Israel, essentially saying that you single out Israel for these kinds of investigations and other countries in the region simply do not get the same kind of scrutiny.”

Hossein responded with the claim that “we’ve carried out the task that was given to us”, to which Coomarasamy replied:

Coomarasamy: “You don’t accept that Israel gets singled out, that it gets far deeper and closer scrutiny than other countries in the region?”

Hossein: “We interpreted our mandate as being to look at all parties and to look at their responsibility in the context of the protests.”

Coomarasamy made no effort to clarify to listeners that the mandate predetermined that the ‘Great Return March’ events were “civilian protests” and instead moved on to the question of “what do you expect Israel to do with this?” to which Hossein replied:

Hossein: “We have said they should cease the killings of civilians. I cannot see why that is not an acceptable recommendation to make. Why is the killing of an 11 year-old or a 13 year-old or a 14 year-old or a double amputee or a paramedic or a journalist – why and in what context can that be justifiable?”

Rather than informing listeners of the numerous cases in which under-18s, journalists and paramedics have been shown to have links to terror organisations and asking Hossein why the commission ignored Hamas’ own statements regarding the affiliations of many of the dead, Coomarasamy closed the conversation there.

That crucial omission was likewise relevant in Coomarasamy’s subsequent interview with Israel’s representative at the UN in Geneva, Aviva Raz Shechter. During that conversation Coomarasamy repeatedly promoted the UNHRC’s talking points.

Coomarasamy: “But in the context of what happened – the deaths for example of the children, of people in wheelchairs – how can you justify using live ammunition against them? Was it a mistake by the Israeli Defence Forces? Were they following the rules of engagement?”

Coomarasamy: “…but the question that this report is posing is why did Israeli soldiers fire live rounds at people who were identifiable as children. That must be a question that Israel needs to ask itself.”

Coomarasamy: “So are you disputing that children and people with disabilities were killed by fire from the Israeli forces?”

Coomarasamy: “Is Israel looking into those deaths though of the children and others – innocent civilians.”

As we see, Coomarasamy promoted the absurd notion that minors, people with disabilities (the UNHRC report includes one example of a deaf person, though how IDF forces were supposed to know that is not made clear), paramedics or people wearing ‘Press’ vests are automatically “innocent civilians” regardless of their affiliations or actions at the time.

Previously the same day Radio 4 listeners had heard another dose of unchallenged UNHRC messaging – although significantly, that body was not mentioned by name – in the ‘World at One’ news bulletin (from 05:14 here).

Newsreader: “A UN investigation into the deaths of nearly 200 Palestinian protesters on the border with the Gaza Strip last year has concluded that war crimes may have been committed. 35 children were among the dead. Israel has rejected the report as a theatre of the absurd. Imogen Foulkes reports from Geneva.”

Foulkes: “The investigators say there are reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers and children even though they were clearly recognisable as such. Israel has always said its actions were a defence against terrorism but the UN report concludes the protests were civilian in nature with clearly stated political aims. The report does however criticise Hamas for failing to stop some of its supporters using incendiary balloons which caused fear and some damage to property in southern Israel.”

Once again we see uncritical and unquestioning amplification of the UNHRC report, including the term “war crimes” which, as NGO Monitor explains, is inapplicable given the legal framework selected by the commission.

“…according to the Commission, the violence along the Israel-Gaza border was not a “military” or “combat” situation and therefore human rights law was the appropriate standard. Therefore, its conclusion that “human rights violations may also constitute “war crimes” is baseless, since war crimes can only where the laws of war are applicable.”

BBC coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ has been highly unsatisfactory over the past eleven months, meaning that audiences come to this latest story without the background information necessary for its proper understanding. As we see, rather than try to make up for the serial failure to clarify that what it uniformly portrays as “protests” and “demonstrations” is actually violent rioting which has included hundreds of petrol bomb attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and shooting attacks as well as infiltration attempts, the BBC elected to unquestioningly amplify the UNHRC report which dovetails with its own existing politically motivated narrative.

Related Articles:

BBC News website unquestioningly amplifies UNHRC’s report

The BBC’s ‘Great Return March’ great disappearing act

 

 

BBC News website unquestioningly amplifies UNHRC’s report

On February 28th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Gaza protest deaths: Israel may have committed war crimes – UN” which opened as follows:

“Israeli soldiers may have committed war crimes while responding to Palestinian protests on the Gaza border last year, UN human rights experts have said.

A commission of inquiry investigated the killing of 189 Palestinians between 30 March and 31 December 2018.

It found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at children, medics and journalists, even though they were clearly recognisable as such.

Israel’s acting foreign minister said it rejected the findings outright.”

As has been documented here over the past eleven months, the BBC’s reporting on the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting has uniformly portrayed the events as “protests” and “demonstrations” and has repeatedly downplayed or erased their violent nature. This latest report continued that framing.

“Palestinians have been taking part in protests along the border since last March as part of a campaign, dubbed “the Great March of Return”, in support of the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

As has been the case in previous BBC reporting, no explanation of the significance of that “declared right” and the fact that the aim of that demand is to threaten the existence of Israel as the Jewish state was provided to readers.

Over the past eleven months we have also repeatedly documented the fact that the BBC has downplayed or erased Hamas’ role in initiating, organising and facilitating the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. In this report, however, the BBC had no choice but reflect the UNHRC’s acknowledgement of Hamas’ role.

“The campaign has been organised by the militant Hamas movement – which dominates Gaza and is designated a terrorist group by Israel – and other groups.”

Hamas is of course also designated as a terrorist group in whole or in part by additional countries and bodies including the EU, the US, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Japan and Canada.

Obviously this report could not be complete without provision of an overview of both the UNHRC’s longstanding anti-Israel bias and the one-sided mandate of the specific ‘investigation’ which led to the publication of the report which is its subject matter. The BBC however failed to provide readers with that crucial information.

“The commission of inquiry, which was set up by the UN Human Rights Council in May, said on Thursday that more than 6,000 unarmed demonstrators were shot by military snipers at designated protest sites over nine months.

It investigated the deaths of 189 Palestinians at the sites on official protest days and found that Israeli forces had killed 183 with live ammunition. Thirty-five of the fatalities were children, while three were clearly marked paramedics, and two were clearly marked journalists, the commission found. […]

Unless undertaken lawfully in self-defence, intentionally shooting a civilian not directly participating in hostilities is a war crime.”

The BBC’s article continues to quote the UNHRC report and its authors at length, including the following:

“Sara Hossain, a Bangladeshi lawyer and a member of the commission, said: “We are saying that they have intentionally shot children. They have intentionally shot people with disabilities. They have intentionally shot journalists.”

The BBC’s article made no effort to explain to audiences that the fact that some of the fatalities were children or “clearly marked paramedics” or “clearly marked journalists” does not exclude the possibility of links to terror organisations.

For example in May 2018 the BBC published a report in which it was claimed that “one paramedic was killed and several others were wounded on Monday as Israeli troops opened fire during the protests.” That same paramedic appeared in a poster released by Hamas showing some of its members killed on May 14th.

Journalists killed during the ‘Great Return March’ rioting have also been shown to have links to terror groups:

“An examination of Ahmed Abu Hussein’s identity revealed that in addition to being a media person, he was also a PFLP operative. The PFLP’s military wing issued formal death notices for him on its website. […]

According to Israeli security sources, Yasser Murtaja had served for years as an officer with the rank of captain in the Hamas security services in the Gaza Strip. The same sources added that he was an active operative in the security services and greatly assisted them in their activity on a daily basis.”

Among the under-18s killed were those with direct links to Hamas who were sent to sabotage the border fence while others – such as Ahmad al-Sha’ar [also al Shaer] who is named on page 9 of the UNHRC report – were terror operatives (see page 20 here).

In fact around 80% of those killed during the ‘Great Return March’ have been shown to be affiliated with terror factions – a fact totally ignored by the BBC in its unquestioning amplification of this UNHRC report.

Thus BBC audiences were denied the ability to judge for themselves the UNHRC’s preposterous claim that the violent rioting is “civilian in nature”.

“…it [the commission] concluded the demonstrations were “civilian in nature”, with clearly stated political aims, and that despite some acts of significant violence they did not constitute combat or military campaigns.”

So much for the BBC’s public purpose obligation to “provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world.”

Related Articles:

Mapping changes in BBC reporting of Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’

Why did the BBC News website erase an accurate statement?

Examining UNHRC statements uncritically amplified by BBC News

UK government’s UNHRC statement not newsworthy for the BBC

BBC radio audiences get whitewashed picture of youth participation in Gaza riots

BBC again amplifies Gaza claims from political activist medic

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC has a report on the latest activities of the London-based Hamas operative Muhammad Sawalha.

“Given the absence of effective British regulations and legislation, in ITIC assessment Britain continues to serve as the European center for Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas activities, although the activists in Britain operate carefully. They operate in two main spheres, waging the battle for the hearts and minds of British Muslims (spreading the Muslim Brotherhood’s radical Islam in the local Muslim communities) and carrying out anti-Israeli activities (organizing flotillas, spreading propaganda rejecting the existence of the State of Israel, promoting the BDS campaign against Israel and waging anti-Israel lawfare).”

2) Udi Dekel analyses the current state of Palestinian politics as part of the latest INSS Strategic Survey.

“The Palestinian political system is currently mired in a deep crisis owing to a host of intertwined and mutually reinforcing factors. The focal point is the crisis pertaining to the Gaza Strip and the serious deterioration there over the past year. In the current reality, there is no magic formula on the horizon to dispel the political, security, and humanitarian problems of the Strip and counter their negative implications for Israel’s relations with the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Palestinian political system is keenly mindful of “the day after Abbas” (Abu Mazen), which has paralyzed its ability to make critical decisions. Another factor in the crisis is the unbridgeable gap between Fatah and Hamas and their inability to promote reconciliation. Also relevant is the Palestinians’ lack of confidence in the Trump administration, after it overturned a number of fundamental premises of the traditional United States approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Against this background, the chances of promoting a political initiative between the Palestinian system and the State of Israel are extremely slim and will remain so, even after the Trump administration places its “deal of the century” on the table.”

3) Writing at The Hill, Emanuele Ottolenghi of the FDD discusses sanctions against Iran’s Mahan Air.

“Since the beginning of Syria’s civil war, Iranian commercial airlines have sustained the dictatorship of Bashar Al Assad and the forces waging a scorched-earth campaign on his behalf. Mahan Air has been at the forefront of this effort, prompting the Treasury Department to impose sanctions on it in 2011. Until recently, Mahan and its business partners faced few material costs as a result of sanctions. Its aircraft continued to land not only in Damascus but also at airports across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Then, last year, Treasury changed tactics. Rather than just hitting the airlines with sanctions, the Department began to punish the ground services providers who facilitate the airline’s commercial operations across the globe.”

4) NGO Monitor has published a report on the NGO that is the “Foundation for the UN BDS Blacklist”.

“The allegations published by Who Profits claiming the illegality and immorality of various business activities are echoed uncritically by UN bodies and officials and international NGOs as part of their politicized agendas. UN bodies – notably the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) – are relying significantly on Who Profits in preparing a UN “blacklist” of companies allegedly doing business in settlements. The misleading claims are also regularly cited by corporate social responsibility (CSR) firms in their ratings systems of company compliance with human rights to justify biased reporting and illegitimate divestment.”

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Writing at the Jerusalem Post, Tamara Berens explains how an “Anti-Zionist Minority Holds British Universities Hostage”.

“With the BBC’s prominence as a breaking news source on social media, British students have been inculcated with a highly distorted vision of Israel. On campus, students of my age grew up reading extensive reporting on Operation Protective Edge in 2014, characterized by stark omission of the facts on the ground. Coverage of the conflict was marred by the BBC’s repeated failure to showcase the barrage of rockets fired at Israeli homes and city centers – a total of 4,897 rockets in 2014. Trusted news source The Guardian frequently prints opinion pieces rationalizing Palestinian terrorism and portraying Israelis as violent. Ill-informed students in Britain go into university with the impression that Israel is an inherently evil aggressor in a one-sided conflict. With such unchallenged media coverage, who should blame them?”

2) MEMRI reviews the escalation of tensions between Fatah and Hamas.

“Relations between Fatah, headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud ‘Abbas, and Hamas are now extremely tense, and the two organizations’ positions have not been farther apart since the 2007 Hamas coup against the PA in Gaza. In recent weeks, the tension has become so great, and the schism between them so wide, that it appears that both sides – which, incidentally, both accuse the U.S. of striving, by means of the Deal of the Century, to create two separate Palestinian entities, in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – are doing just that on their own, without any help from the U.S. Things have reached the point where each side is saying that the other no longer represents the Palestinian people, that it will never return to talks or reconciliation efforts, and that it will act to bring down the regime of the other.”

3) Also at MEMRI – translated excerpts from an interview with the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

“Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was interviewed on Channel 4 TV (Iran) on January 22, 2019. He said that the negotiations surrounding the JCPOA had required Iran to destroy the Arak reactor’s calandria by filling it with cement, but that Iran had secretly acquired replacement tubes ahead of time so that the reactor’s functionality would not be ultimately affected. He also said that pictures that had circulated that showed the Arak reactor’s pit filled with cement had been photoshopped. He explained that Iran has no intention to build a nuclear weapon, and that the Arak reactor is nonetheless incapable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. In addition, Salehi said that the yellowcake production facilities in Ardakan are operational and that Iran has been authorized to produce two additional IR-8 centrifuges. Salehi added that Iran has advanced rapidly in the field of nuclear propulsion.”

4) Khaled Abu Toameh reports on “The ‘Political Detainees’ No One Talks About” at the Gatestone Institute.

“In a letter to Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a number of Palestinian human rights organizations recently demanded that the international agency speak out against the politically motivated arrests by the PA in the West Bank.

“We wish to express our deep concern and condemnation over the increased arrest campaigns carried out by the PA security forces against residents because of their opinions and political affiliations,” the organizations said in their letter. They also expressed deep concern over the “systematic torture” of Palestinians in PA prisons. […]

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah can sit pretty, all the same, despite their continued assault on public freedoms. The mainstream media in the West has shown itself to be wholly indifferent to the torture taking place inside Palestinian prisons.”

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.”

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.  

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BBC portrayal of US decision to leave UNHRC – part one

BBC News website amplifies the NGO echo-chamber