BBC WS isolates narrative from context in another Gaza Corona report

As we have previously documented (see ‘related articles’ below), in the past couple of weeks the BBC provided its audiences with preemptive reporting on the topic of Coronavirus in the Gaza Strip and reports on the first two cases diagnosed there.

On March 26th seven additional cases were confirmed and the final item in that day’s afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was billed as follows in the synopsis:

“And will Gaza’s health care system be able to stem the spread of the virus?”

Presenter James Menendez introduced the report (from 48:41 here) using a novel euphemism to describe a terrorist organisation and promoting talking points already seen in earlier reports.

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

Menendez: “Covid 19’s shown its power to overwhelm well-funded health systems in the richest countries. How much greater the risk then when those medical services are weak to begin with and when people are packed into spaces in which calls for social distancing or self-isolation are all but futile. Gaza is the tiny strip of land between Israel and Egypt into which 2 million Palestinians are crammed under the governance of the internationally shunned Hamas movement. Matthias Schmale is the Gaza operations director of UNRWA – the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – and he’s been talking to my colleague Tim Franks.”

Schmale: “Overnight another 7 cases were announced, bringing the total to nine.”

Franks: “Right and do you know where these infections originated from?”

Schmale: “The official line from the Ministry of Health is that the original two cases came from outside. They were two Palestinians who’d been in Pakistan and then were put into quarantine. And the latest seven announced last night are guards, security people at this quarantine. So, you know, it’s a bit a border line because they didn’t travel but they contracted it from there other two inside the quarantine area.”

Franks: “Right and I guess that’s particularly concerning is once you get into local transmission.”

Schmale: “I’ve been saying now for several days we need to treat this as if it is a full outbreak. You know, we don’t have the luxury to speculate. And so as UN we are working as if there is a full outbreak locally.”

Listeners were not told that UNRWA had suspended food distribution two days earlier.

Franks: “Well you say you need to treat it as if it’s a full outbreak; Gaza has particular challenges, to put it euphemistically. How difficult is it to try and contain this virus for you?”

Schmale: “The biggest challenge really is that it is so overcrowded and that standards of living – particularly in the refugee camps; 1.4 million people in Gaza of the 2 million living here are refugees, many of whom live in overcrowded camps, so it’s very common to have six, eight or even ten people living in a room or two. And so to do social distancing in those kinds of circumstances – or isolation when once that becomes necessary – is almost impossible to imagine. So that’s one big challenge.”

Of course Tim Franks did not ask Matthias Schmale to explain to listeners why there are still refugee camps in the Gaza Strip nearly fifteen years after Israel’s disengagement from the territory and he refrained from providing BBC audiences with the highly relevant context of UNRWA’s deliberate perpetuation of hereditary refugee status for millions of people living under Palestinian control.  

Schmale: “The other big challenge is that the hospitalisation sector is completely in meltdown. Now what I’ve been told is we have at maximum 60 ICU beds. Out of every hundred people who get ill, five at least on average would need ICU so you can do the math. As soon as more than 1,500 people are ill, they won’t be able to cope. So we are really worried about that, not to mention then the many mild and medium cases that we would have that would have no place to go to.”

Franks did not ask Schmale for the source of that claim that 5% of Covid 19 patients would need ICU treatment. This model, for example, estimates that 2% of patients would need ICU treatment and 1% would require a ventilator. Neither did he bother to enquire how the fact that the Gaza Strip has a relatively young population (the median age is around 18 years) in comparison with many countries would affect the demands placed on the healthcare system.

Franks: “The next question inevitably is what can be done about it?”

Schmale: “We’ve been working for days now as UN including UNRWA – the organisation I work for looking after Palestine refugees – at high speed and try and contain it, you know, and that’s about public health messaging, as difficult as it is to try and respect the guidance from the World Health Organisation about personal hygiene, about social distance at least one or two meters apart. That needs to hold and we’re trying to do that. We are trying to work with the authorities to actually impose a curfew. We think that’s now essential, you know. We don’t – as some colleagues have expressed – want to end up like places like Italy where maybe some those decision were taken too late. And so what we’re trying to do is hope for the best that there won’t be lots of people getting ill but preparing for the worst. And there will be clear limitations as to what we can do if there indeed is a full-scale outbreak in terms of many people getting sick.”

Menendez: “Matthias Schmale, the Gaza operations director of UNRWA – that’s the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – talking about the situation there.”

As we see the BBC continues to promote long-standing talking points concerning the Gaza Strip in its coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic. Notably though, audiences have yet to hear about Hamas’ prioritisation of terror over public services for more than a decade, the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility for the shortage of medicines and equipment in hospitals in the Gaza Strip or the part played by Israel in delivering testing kits and medical supplies to the territory.  

Those omissions suggest that BBC journalists are less interested in informing audiences of the realities of the situation than they are in promoting a long since adopted narrative.

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BBC Radio 4 spreads inaccurate Gaza healthcare canard

BBC News silence on eight-month-old story continues

For the past eight months the BBC News website has totally ignored the story of allegations of ethical misconduct at the highest levels of the UN agency dedicated solely to people classed as Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, and the subsequent resignation of its commissioner-general, his deputy and the chief of staff.

BBC News stays mum on UNRWA head’s resignation

Last week a new commissioner-general was appointed.

“Swiss humanitarian relief expert Philippe Lazzarini has been appointed to head the UN agency responsible for aiding Palestinian refugees. […]

Born in 1964, Lazzarini has coordinated the work of the United Nations in Lebanon for the past five years. His career has taken him to Somalia, Iraq, Angola and the Palestinian territories. He also has had positions with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East.”

The UN post which Lazzarini held since August 2015 is that of Deputy Special Coordinator, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon in the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL). UNSCOL was created in July 2000 “to help coordinate United Nations activities with regard to Southern Lebanon”. Those activities of course include the deployment of the UNIFIL forces which have not succeeded in implementing UN SC resolution 1701. The UN Secretary General’s most recent report on the implementation of that resolution states that:

“…no progress was achieved with respect to the disarmament of armed groups. Hizbullah continued to acknowledge publicly that it maintains precision missile and other military capabilities. The maintenance of arms outside the control of the State by Hizbullah and other groups in violation of resolution 1701 (2006) continues to restrict the State’s ability to exercise full sovereignty and authority over its territory.”

Lazzarini has also previously worked at UNOCHA.

Despite the BBC having put a considerable amount of effort into amplifying UNRWA talking points throughout 2018, members of its funding public have to date not seen any coverage of the resignation of the previous UNRWA commissioner-general or the appointment of the new one on the BBC News website or, to the best of our knowledge, on any other BBC platform.  

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BBC ignores UNRWA ethical abuses story

BBC News maintains its silence on the UNRWA ethical abuses story

One month on, BBC silence on UNRWA allegations persists

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

Weekend long read

1) At the INSS Carmit Valensi, Neta Nave and Ofek Mushkat discuss ‘The Fight for Idlib’.

“Idlib province in northwest Syria remains the last significant stronghold of the rebellion against the Assad regime. The campaign that was revived recently in this area is marked by traits of the civil war now entering its tenth year: cruel and indiscriminate regime fighting backed by Russia and Iranian-run Shiite militias; a humanitarian crisis, manifested inter alia in displacement and potential refugees; a Russian effort, so far fruitless, to mediate between the sides; a danger of the situation deteriorating – militarily and diplomatically – given the multiple actors in the field. However, the campaign in the Idlib area reflects two significant changes in the balance of power between the sides: first, unusual military confrontations between Turkey and Assad regime forces, which so far have led to the downing of two Syrian military helicopters and fatalities on both sides. The second is linked to Iran’s decision to send its proxies into the fight after previously abstaining from involvement in this war theater. These developments are shaking up the already fragile balance of power among the various involved actors.”

2) Also at the INSS, Dr Raz Zimmt analyses ‘Parliamentary Elections in Iran: The Predicted Conservative Victory’.

“Official though not yet final results of the parliamentary elections held in Iran on February 21, 2020 show a landslide victory by the conservative right (200 out of 290 seats, versus under 20 seats won by reformist candidates). This victory was expected in view of the sweeping disqualification by the authorities of most of the reformist candidates. The low voter turnout (slightly over 40 percent) reflects the ongoing erosion of public trust in the political system. Over time this erosion could undermine the legitimacy of the regime, which to a large extent depends on its ability to maintain at least the appearance of popular representation in state institutions. The return of absolute control of the Majlis to the conservatives could create even more difficulties for President Hassan Rouhani in his last year of office, and is a possible preliminary sign regarding the next presidential elections, expected to be held in the summer of 2021.”

3) The Henry Jackson Society has published a report by Dr Simon Waldman titled ‘UNRWA’s Future Reconsidered’.

“UNRWA, the UN aid body established to support Palestinians, has been dogged by repeated allegations of mismanagement which led to the USA withdrawing all funding in 2018.  Following further allegations of misconduct in 2019; Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands froze funding to the body.  In contrast, the UK increased its annual contribution by over $25 million between 2017 and 2018.

Despite the UK’s continued support for UNRWA, allegations that educational materials provided by the body include extremism have dogged the organisation.  UNRWA blames the disturbing material within its schools on the local authorities whose educational ministries determine curricula within their respective jurisdictions. While UNRWA claims to routinely review its materials, the report argues that the problem is longstanding and measures to end the problem have been subsequently reversed.”

4) The ITIC reports on the Hizballah linked Lebanese organisation ‘Green Without Borders’.

“Green Without Borders is a Lebanese environmental organization dealing mostly with forestation. It operates in areas populated mainly by Hezbollah-controlled Shi’ites in south Lebanon and the Beqa’a Valley. An examination conducted by the ITIC revealed that the organization collaborates with Hezbollah’s civilian institutions, especially the Jihad al-Bina (the “construction foundation”) and the Hezbollah Association for Municipal Activity. Green Without Borders participates in Hezbollah’s campaign to glorify its shaheeds and turn them into role models for Lebanese youth. To that end Green Without Borders plants trees, some of them near the Israeli border, named for Hezbollah shaheeds, in collaboration with Hezbollah institutions and operatives. Green Without Borders’ chairman, Hajj Zuhair Nahle, a Shi’ite from Nabatieh in south Lebanon, is affiliated with Hezbollah. In his Facebook profile he refers to his loyalty to Iranian leader Ali Khamenei.”

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BBC News stays mum on UNRWA head’s resignation

For over three months the BBC has refrained from producing any reporting whatsoever on the issue of allegations of ethical misconduct at the highest levels of the UN agency dedicated solely to people classed as Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

BBC ignores UNRWA ethical abuses story

BBC News maintains its silence on the UNRWA ethical abuses story

One month on, BBC silence on UNRWA allegations persists

On November 6th the agency’s head, Pierre Krahenbuhl, resigned.

“Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl was replaced earlier on Wednesday until a review of “management-related matters” at the agency was completed, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said in a statement.

Krahenbuhl then informed U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that he was resigning, effective immediately, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York. […]

Krahenbuhl was notified in March that an investigation was underway by the U.N. Secretariat in New York “based on allegations received against UNRWA personnel relating to unsatisfactory conduct”, an UNRWA spokeswoman said.

Krahenbuhl, a Swiss national, took over the UNRWA post in 2014. He was previously director of operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Dujarric said in a statement on Wednesday that the preliminary findings of the investigation by the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services “exclude fraud or misappropriation of operational funds” by Krahenbuhl.

“There are, however, managerial issues that need to be addressed,” he said.”

The BBC News website has to date failed to produce any reporting about Krahenbuhl’s resignation.

As documented here in recent months, the investigation has affected UNRWA’s funding.

“Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium have separately suspended payments to UNRWA over the management issues that are now under investigation. The agency’s spokeswoman says it still needs $89 million to keep operating until the end of this year.”

Throughout most of 2018 the BBC showed considerable interest in the topic of UNRWA funding after the US cut its contributions to the agency:

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

Remarkably, the same level of interest in UNRWA funding is now completely absent and the BBC apparently does not consider that audiences need to know about the investigation taking place at the UN agency it has uncritically championed and promoted for so many years or the related resignation of its often interviewed commissioner-general.

 

One month on, BBC silence on UNRWA allegations persists

A month has passed since AFP reported on “alleged mismanagement and abuses of authority at the highest levels of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees”.

During that time three countries – Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium – have suspended their contributions to UNRWA pending the results of a UN investigation. The Czech government has called for the allegations to be “thoroughly investigated”.

Now a fourth country – New Zealand – says it will not make any further payments to UNRWA until that investigation is completed. The Jerusalem Post reports that New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT):

“…said New Zealand’s next payment to UNRWA is not scheduled until March 2020. Therefore, “the ministry will review the findings of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Service report once the investigation is complete and after that point provide advice to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on future funding.”

According to the Israel Institute of New Zealand MFAT committed in May to providing NZ$ 3 million over a period of three years.

One month on, the BBC – which last year put a considerable amount of effort into amplifying UNRWA talking points concerning its funding – has still not provided its funding public with any coverage of this story.

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BBC News maintains its silence on the UNRWA ethical abuses story

 

 

BBC News maintains its silence on the UNRWA ethical abuses story

A week has passed since revelations concerning alleged mismanagement and abuses of authority at the highest levels of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees emerged.

BBC ignores UNRWA ethical abuses story

The BBC continues to maintain ‘radio silence’ on that issue and – although it did take the time to inform audiences that “[l]ast year the US stopped contributing to the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), which has been supporting Palestinian refugees since 1949 [sic]” two days after that story broke – it did not apparently consider the fact that Switzerland and the Netherlands subsequently suspended their funding to the agency worth reporting.

Since then Belgium has followed suit.

BBC reporting in August 2018

“Belgium has temporarily suspended its funding to UNRWA, following reports of a UN investigation into ethical misconduct among its senior staff, according to Israel’s Embassy in Belgium.

The embassy tweeted about the suspension on Friday, quoting from Belgian Minister of Finance and Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo, who stated, “If the accusations are true, it’s completely unacceptable.””

In short – three countries suspend their funding to a UN agency in the wake of an ethics report revealing alleged mismanagement and abuse of authority at its highest levels and yet the BBC does not consider that its audiences need to know about that story.

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More repetition of the BBC’s partial narrative on construction

On the afternoon of July 31st the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel backs West Bank homes for settlers and Palestinians” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

Unfortunately for any reader hoping to gain a better understanding of the broader topic behind the specific story, the report offered nothing but a repeat of well-worn framing intended to advance a particular political narrative.

As usual the report employs partisan terminology to describe Israelis living in places the BBC believes they should not and the communities and region in which they reside. [emphasis added]

“Israel has approved the construction of 6,000 new homes for Jewish settlers and 700 homes for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

The decision about new homes in settlements further extends the Israeli presence in the West Bank.”

As usual readers are presented with a partial portrayal of ‘international law’.

“Israeli settlements in the West Bank are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

Moreover, embedded into the report is a video narrated by the Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which first appeared in June and in which it is claimed that ‘international law’ not only applies to places but also to people.

 Settlers are seen as illegal under international law but Israel rejects that.” 

Later on – under the sub-heading “Why are settlements such an issue?” – the report claims that:

Israel has settled about 400,000 Jews in West Bank settlements, with another 200,000 living in East Jerusalem.”

Of course Israelis residing in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem which were illegally occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967 do so because that is their own personal choice and not because they were “settled” there by any Israeli government. The use of that terminology is a nod to the claim that Israeli towns and villages in those regions are ‘illegal under international law’ based on the Fourth Geneva Convention which states “[t]he Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

The article tells readers that:

“It is not clear whether the Palestinian homes would be new constructions or merely legal approval for 700 already existing homes in what is known as “Area C” of the West Bank – where Palestinian villages often lie close to Israeli settlements, and where Israel has full control of the territory.”

It does not however inform audiences that “Israel has full control” of Area C – including planning -because the Palestinians agreed to that nearly twenty-four years ago and the absence of that information means that readers are unable to put the predictably unquestioned and unqualified Palestinian claims promoted in the next two paragraphs into their correct context.

“The Palestinian leadership dismissed the announcement, saying it rejected any Israeli construction or controls over Palestinian construction in the West Bank.

It said it was “evidence of the dark colonial mentality of the rules [sic] in Israel and which ignores all United Nations resolutions, international law and the signed agreements”.”

Providing no evidence to support its claim concerning a plan which has not even been published, the report goes on:

“The move comes ahead of a visit by US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who heads the White House’s faltering attempts to broker a peace deal.”

As has so often been the case in the past, the BBC conceals the fact that in 1995 the US Congress passed the ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act’ – a law declaring that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.”

“In 2017 Mr Trump announced that the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, overturning decades of official US policy.”

While the BBC continues to ignore allegations of corruption at the top of UNRWA management and the related suspension of funding by Switzerland and the Netherlands, readers are also told that:

“Last year the US stopped contributing to the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), which has been supporting Palestinian refugees since 1949.”

UNRWA was actually only set up in December 1949 and clause 6 of the relevant UN resolution refers to the commencement of “direct relief and works programmes” from January 1st 1950.

Readers see more unquestioning amplification of Palestinian messaging with no alternative view and no information concerning Israel’s past evacuations of communities in Sinai, the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria provided.

“What happens to the settlements is one of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians – Palestinians say the presence of settlements makes a future independent state impossible.”

The report closes with a characteristically euphemistic portrayal of past events:

“Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since 2014, when a US-brokered attempt to reach a deal collapsed.”

Readers are not informed that those negotiations actually collapsed because, in addition to breaching an undertaking to avoid acts of accession to international institutions during the period of negotiations, the Palestinian Authority chose to opt for ‘reconciliation’ with Hamas.

As is the case in any BBC report concerning building tenders and construction in the areas occupied by Jordan for nineteen years, the corporation once again demonstrates that its professed commitment to ‘impartial’ reporting is pure fiction.

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BBC ignores UNRWA ethical abuses story

In 2017 the BBC expanded its links with the news agency AFP as part of its newsgathering process. Unlike many other media outlets – including the corporation’s preferred paper the Guardian – the BBC does not however appear to consider one recent AFP story newsworthy.

“An internal ethics report has alleged mismanagement and abuses of authority at the highest levels of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees even as the organisation faced an unprecedented crisis after US funding cuts.

The allegations included in the confidential report by the agency’s ethics department are now being scrutinised by UN investigators. […]

AFP has obtained a copy of the report which describes “credible and corroborated” allegations of serious ethical abuses, including involving UNRWA’s top official, Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl.

It says the allegations include senior management engaging in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent, and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives.””

Despite the BBC having put a considerable amount of effort into amplifying UNRWA talking points throughout last year, members of its funding public have to date not seen any coverage of this latest story concerning the controversial UN agency on the BBC News website or, to the best of our knowledge, anywhere else.  

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BBC Radio 4 provides a platform for the PLO’s ‘apartheid’ smear

Three days after the Palestinian Authority representative in London, Husam Zomlot, had given a briefing to “senior BBC correspondents and journalists” at Broadcasting House, listeners to the June 20th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard a remarkably sympathetic and unchallenging interview with his colleague Saeb Erekat.

Presenter Mishal Husain introduced the item (from 2:33:34 here) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “There will be a conference next week in Bahran initiated by the United States on proposals for the Palestinian economy. The Palestinian leadership however will not be there. Indeed the draft agenda for the event doesn’t include the word Palestinian, talking instead about investment in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel’s government will be represented as will the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It’s all part of the ‘deal of the century’ as Donald Trump calls his Middle East peace initiative with his son-in-law Jared Kushner at the helm. Saeb Erekat is one of the most senior and long-serving Palestinian officials; a negotiator of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s and now secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee. He’s here in London and is with us in the studio. […] What do you achieve – you as the Palestinian leadership – by boycotting this event?”

In contrast to that highlighted claim from Husain, the Times of Israel reported the previous day that:

“No Israeli officials were invited to the event, the US administration announced earlier this week, noting that, given the fact that Palestinian Authority refused to attend, the hosts did not want to politicize the event.”

Erekat opened with an unsupported claim.

Erekat: “First of all we did not know about this event to begin with. We heard about it from the BBC. No-one consulted us and as for the ‘deal of the century’ you mentioned, Mishal, I think they have been implementing it, dictating it…”

Husain: “The Americans.”

Erekat: “The Americans, you know, in turning Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the embassy, closing our office in Washington, closing their consulate, calling settlements legal. When was the last time…today it’s been 28 months for this Trump team in office. Did you hear the term from them two states? Did you hear the term occupation? Did you hear the term settlements illegal? So they’re inviting for a Manama workshop because they know what’s best for me. I should not think any more. They know what’s better for me. They want to link me, my Jericho home, Nablus, Hebron, Ramallah with settlements so we can co-exist because in their eyes I’m not a people.”

Making no effort to clarify to listeners why the PLO mission in Washington was closed or why the US Consulate was merged with the embassy in Jerusalem, Husain not only failed to challenge Erekat’s claims but added credence to them.

Husain: “But what are your options in the face of an administration that takes that position?”

Erekat: “I not declare war on them. They declare war on our rights. And the whole aspects they’re doing now is they trying to…they focus attention from the Palestinian rights to Palestinian needs. What I mean by this, they want to go with the settlers council’s plan – the Israeli settler council’s plan – which specifies the term one state, two system: apartheid. They want me to have the right to have an ID card; it’s gonna be green, theirs will be blue. I have the right to study but they will determine the books and the maps that my children will study or not study. They will determine how do I drive and where do I drive. My car licence will be white and green; theirs will be yellow. There’s a deeper apartheid system that exist in the West Bank and Israel today than the one that existed in the darkest hours of South Africa’s apartheid. What we’re trying to tell the world – what I’m here in Britain, in Europe, in the Arab world, Asia, Africa, Latin America – we must stand tall to defend international law. We must stand tall to defend the four Geneva Conventions. We must stand tall to solve this problem by peaceful means.”

Husain made no effort to challenge Erekat’s ‘apartheid’ smears or to clarify the basis for his bizarre claims concerning the colours of various imaginary documents. Her passive approach was rendered even more significant just seconds later when – contradicting his own claims of a “plan” – Erekat admitted that he has no idea what the US proposals include.  

Erekat: “Actually this American administration is telling us if you accept what we offer – and we don’t know what they offer; you don’t know in Britain what they offer, France doesn’t know, no Arabs know, they didn’t share…”

Husain: “The plan was supposed to be presented around now but it’s been delayed because of the Israeli election having to be…”

Erekat: “That’s exactly it. It’s because of the Israelis and because of their…they work it out and draft it with Netanyahu, they dictate it on us.”

Following two questions concerning the participation of Arab states in the conference – and some uncharacteristically muted answers from Erekat – Husain continued:

Husain: “OK. You said the focus has been put on Palestinian needs rather than Palestinian rights but in terms of those needs, you would accept – wouldn’t you? – the…the dire economic position that the Palestinian Authority is in. It’s had aid cut off by the Americans. You know, there are all sorts of programmes which are desperately under-funded, both in the West Bank and in Gaza. So economic proposals are needed, are they not?”

Erekat: “So the Americans, as you said, cut $844 million from my aid. They cut aid to the St. John’s hospital in East Jerusalem – a British institute – the only eye centre serving Palestinians. They cut aid to the only cancer centre, Augusta Victoria…”

Husain: “Which is why I ask you; don’t you welcome the economic proposals given that situation?”

Erekat: “If you believe…Mishal, the people who cut aid to hospitals, to schools…they defunded UNRWA for the refugees $350 million and they left 112 projects – roads, schools, hosp…unfinished. And you’re telling me these people do care about my prosperity? And they want to do projects for me? The Israelis are withholding my funds, my revenues and the Americans are cutting all my aid and now they have these tears on [for] me?” […]

Husain did not bother to tell listeners that it is the PA which has refused to accept transfers of tax revenues from Israel or that the PA also refused to accept a category of US aid and that in both cases the background is linked to the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to terrorists.

Husain: “I want to ask you: you’ve worked on these issues all of your adult life. Do you think you will see a Palestinian state in your lifetime or are you in the process of having to face reality and perhaps giving up on it?”

Erekat: “I…I cannot give up. I will not give up. It’s not a job that I do. I have 8 grandchildren, four children. I don’t want them to be suicide bombers. I don’t want them to be desperate because desperation will lead to desperate acts. And the only option for us as Palestinians as my president specified in his proposal for the United Nations Security Council February 20th 2018 – live and let live. The State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital to live side by side the State of Israel in peace and security. This is the only solution.”

Husain made no effort to ask Erekat how he intends to get Hamas and other Palestinian terror factions on board with that vision.

Erekat: “Now we have an Israeli government, an American administration that want one state two systems: apartheid. This will not fly.”

Once again failing to challenge that ‘apartheid’ smear, Husain closed the item.

Husain: “Saeb Erekat – thank you very much.”

Obviously this was much less an interview intended to provide BBC audiences with accurate and impartial information which would enhance their understanding of the topic than it was the provision of an unquestioning – if not obsequious – platform for Saeb Erakat’s propaganda.

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BBC’s Plett Usher continues to promote her Israel narratives

In December 2017 the BBC News website published an article titled “Trumplomacy: Key takeaways from Jerusalem policy shift“. In March 2019 the BBC News website published an article titled “Trumplomacy on Golan Heights: What it all means”.  

The latest article in the ‘Trumplomacy’ genre by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent Barbara Plett Usher appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on April 12th under the headline “Trumplomacy: Where are things at with the Mideast peace plan?”. [emphasis in bold added]

The main image illustrating the article is captioned “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) recently became the first high-ranking US official to visit Jerusalem’s Western Wall last month”. In fact previous American visitors to the site have included the US President, Vice-President and former UN ambassador.

Although Israel’s president will only begin meeting with representatives of the lists which won seats in the Knesset in last week’s election on April 15th in order to hear their recommendations for the candidate who should be tasked with forming the next government and that person will then have 28 days in which to do so (with the possibility of a two-week extension), Plett Usher already ‘knows’ what sort of new government Israel will have:

“With a newly elected right-wing government taking shape in Israel this is a good time to check in on the status of the Trump administration’s peace plan.”

Under the sub-heading “How has the [US] policy changed?” Plett Usher instructs readers to:

“Remember that the formula for peace negotiations has been: two states based on the borders of Arab territory seized by Israel in the 1967 war, with mutually agreed land swaps; sufficient security arrangements; a just solution for Palestinian refugees; and negotiations to settle the fate of Jerusalem, the occupied eastern part of which Palestinians claim as their capital.”

While Plett Usher does not specify the source of her “the formula for peace negotiations”, her description is apparently based on non-binding UN General Assembly resolutions such as 3236 and/or the extinct 2003 Quartet road map.

Interestingly, Plett Usher does not bother to inform her readers that the Oslo Accords – the one agreement which resulted from actual negotiations between Israel and the PLO – did not specify the two-state solution as “the formula”.

Significantly, while portraying the “fate of Jerusalem” as the sole issue to be resolved in negotiations, Plett Usher fails to inform audiences that under the terms of the Oslo Accords, other topics she portrays as ‘givens’ – borders, refugees and settlements – are also to be resolved in permanent status negotiations.

Instead Plett Usher promotes the false notion of pre-1967 “borders”, failing to clarify that those were actually armistice lines which were specifically defined in the 1949 Armistice Agreement as not being borders. Equally revealing is Plett Usher’s description of land assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland which was belligerently occupied by Jordan and Egypt in 1948 as “Arab territory” and her prior reference to “the occupied Palestinian West Bank”.

In other words Barbara Plett Usher has unquestioningly adopted and promoted the PLO’s stance on that issue.  She goes on:

“But the White House has declared that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, cut funds to the UN agency that looks after Palestinian refugees, and accepted Israel’s unilateral annexation of other occupied territory, the Golan Heights.”

A journalist with integrity would clarify that the US announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city specifically stated that – in contrast to the impression Plett Usher is trying to create – it had no bearing on negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Today’s actions—recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing the relocation of our embassy—do not reflect a departure from the strong commitment of the United States to facilitating a lasting peace agreement. The United States continues to take no position on any final status issues. The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties. The United States is not taking a position on boundaries or borders.”

And if bringing up the topic of cuts in US funding to UNRWA, a journalist devoted to informing readers would also have explained the background to that decision, the controversies surrounding that UN agency and the broader issue of Palestinian refugees.

Going on to reference the anti-Israel BDS campaign, Plett Usher likewise fails to inform readers of that campaign’s aims, thereby denying them the ability to judge the statement she paraphrases.

“The state department’s new envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Elan Carr, has reinforced this Israeli narrative in US policy.

He told us that boycotting goods made in Jewish West Bank settlements was anti-Semitic, even though the settlements are illegal under international law and have expanded to such a degree many question whether a Palestinian state is still viable.”

Plett Usher then bolsters her article’s core messaging to readers with a quote sourced from an organisation she once again signposts as “liberal”.

“The administration’s embrace of the Israeli government’s right-wing positions has alarmed liberal American Jewish organizations.

“What they’ve done so far tells you what they intend to lay out,” says Jeremy Ben-Ami of the J Street lobby group. “They have no intention to lay out what could conceivably resolve the conflict. Instead they will tie American government positions to those of the farthest right of Israel’s political spectrum.””

In her final section – sub-headed “What about the Palestinian reaction?” – Plett Usher qualifies the description of people convicted of violent attacks against Israelis.

“Mr Abbas is very unpopular. But on a recent trip to Jerusalem I was told anecdotally that Palestinians have at least given him credit for standing firm on their three core issues: Jerusalem, refugees and maintaining funds to Palestinian prisoners – whom the Israelis regard as terrorists – despite financial pressure.”

Although the US administration’s proposal has yet to be revealed, the Palestinian Authority has already made its rejection of it amply clear. Nevertheless Barbara Plett Usher’s aim in this article is to convince BBC audiences that when it does appear, that plan is destined to fail because it ‘embraces’ the positions of “the farthest right of Israel’s political spectrum” rather than because the Palestinians have made it a non-starter.

While Plett Usher’s promotion of that narrative comes as no surprise, it is unfortunate that BBC audiences continue to be fed commentary which does little to enhance their understanding of this and additional topics from a person whose impartiality on issues relating to Israel has long been in plain sight.

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