Weekend long read

1) The Washington Institute for Near East Policy reports the results of an opinion poll.

“A new poll by the Palestine Center for Public Opinion, taken June 27-July 19, indicates that the majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza oppose their leaderships’ preemptive rejection of the Trump administration’s peace plan—despite widespread popular disapproval of the current U.S. president. The survey also shows a dramatic rise in the proportion supporting an enhanced role in peacemaking for the Arab states. More specifically, however, only a minority voice a favorable attitude toward the June regional economic workshop in Bahrain, with many saying they have not heard or read enough about it.”

2) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at Turkish ambitions in the Mediterranean.

“Turkey’s efforts at building influence and power in the neighborhood are not restricted to dry land.  Rather, an important currently developing arena for Turkish assertiveness is the eastern Mediterranean.  This area has been the site of major gas discoveries in Israeli, Cypriot and Egyptian waters in recent years.  Lebanon too is seeking to open exploration in its territorial waters. […]

As Turkey moves further from the west, and closer to alliance with Russia, so it is emerging as an aggressive and disruptive force with regard to gas development in the eastern Meditteranean.  The main area of current concern is that around Cyprus.  Israel, Egypt and Lebanon have all signed delimitation agreements with Cyprus. Turkey refuses to do so.”

3) At the INSS Raz Zimmt asks ‘Has Ebrahim Raisi been Tagged as Iran’s Next Supreme Leader?’.

“Recent months have seen increasing signs that the head of Iran’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, has emerged as the leading candidate to succeed Ali Khamenei as Supreme Leader. Since his appointment as head of the judiciary in March 2019, there have been increasing efforts on the part of Raisi, a conservative cleric, apparently backed by the Supreme Leader, to advance changes in the legal system, improve his public image, and increase his media exposure, particularly in view of his loss in the most recent presidential elections in May 2017. It is still too early to assess Raisi’s chances of winning the battle of succession for the leadership of Iran, which will necessarily be affected by the timing of Khamenei’s departure from the political map. However, his closeness to the Supreme Leader, his experience in the judicial authority, his tenure as chairman of the Astan Quds Razavi foundation (and the Imam Reza Shrine) in the city of Mashhad, and his hardline positions, alongside his increasing efforts to improve his public standing, make him the leading candidate at this stage in the battle of succession.”

4) The ITIC documents how Hamas is “using youngsters as a tool for violence near the security fence in the Gaza Strip”.

“The return march in the Gaza Strip on July 26, 2019, was similar in most respects to the previous marches. About 4,500 Palestinians participated, gathering mainly at the five return camps. As usual, the march was accompanied by violent activities near the border fence carried out by several dozen Palestinians, most of them adolescents and children. The violent activities included throwing IEDs, hand grenades and Molotov cocktails at the IDF. Several Palestinians tried to sabotage the security fence and some crossed the fence into Israeli territory. Videos photographed at the return march clearly illustrated the exploitation of youngsters handled for military missions, endangering their lives. Harm that may come to them serves Hamas as a propaganda and lawfare weapon against Israel, which is represented as Israel’s killing youngsters in cold blood.”

 

Advertisements

BBC radio audiences get ‘the word’ and ‘theories’ instead of facts and analysis

On the same day that the BBC News website published a highly partial report on the topic of new Israeli building permits, listeners to the July 31st evening edition of  the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard presenter James Coomarasamy introduce the final item (from 48:49 here) with the claim that security cabinet approval for those permits came a day later than was actually the case.  

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

Coomarasamy: “Now let’s hear about some developments in the Middle East because President Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy Jared Kushner has been meeting Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. The meeting comes on the day when the Israeli government gave rare approval for the building of 700 Palestinian homes in a part of the occupied West Bank, along with permission for another 6,000 homes for Jewish settlers. The Palestinians bitterly oppose Jewish settlement building and they say this permission is simply another land seizure.”

Seeing as any building would likely take place within the boundaries of existing communities, that claim of a “land seizure” is clearly far fetched and Coomarasamy’s suggestion that the security cabinet approval stipulates the religion/ethnicity of potential residents is equally inaccurate. He went on:

Coomarasamy: “Omar Hajajrei [phonetic] lives in the affected area.”

Listeners were not informed who that interviewee is, to which organisation – if any – he belongs or what makes him qualified to comment on the topic besides his place of residence.

Voiceover translation from Arabic: “This is a lie and it’s only for the media. It’s an excuse to build settlements and to have a barrier of settlements around Jerusalem as you can see in front of us. There are around 1,500 residential units. They started six months ago and look how much they’ve built so far. They will build all around the mountain. It is a lie. Even if they will give permits, they will not give it the right way.”

Coomarasamy: “I’ve been discussing this decision with Raphael Ahren, a diplomatic correspondent of Times of Israel.”

The ‘analysis’ that listeners heard from Raphael Ahren commenced – and continued – with pure speculation.

Ahren: “It is quite unusual. Usually it’s not the security cabinet who debates and decides these issues. It doesn’t need security cabinet discussions. The word here in Israel is that Netanyahu decided to bring this topic up for discussion among the ministers so he can sort of share the blame. If people criticise them for it he can say ‘well all the ministers in the cabinet bear responsibility for that decision and it’s not just me’.”

Coomarasmay: Why might he have decided to go ahead with it?”

The answer to that question was no more evidence based.

Ahren: “Well nobody really knows. There are several theories going around. I’ll offer you two theories. One is that the American administration which is preparing to release its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan has asked him to do so.”

However Ahren then admitted that not only does he have nothing to support that speculation but it has actually been refuted.

Ahren: “This evening the US ambassador David Friedman and his people say that they made no such request and that they didn’t even hint at it. But sometimes, people say, you don’t even have to make an explicit request. Everybody knows that as the Trump administration releases its probably pro-Israel peace plan, it probably looks good to have this gesture for the Palestinians.”

Ahren then presented more evidence-free speculation:

Ahren: “The second reason I would offer had nothing to do with the Americans, had nothing to do with the forthcoming peace plan but rather with the fear of litigation in the International Criminal Court in the Hague. I heard reports tonight that the special prosecutor is in the final stages of her decision-making process whether to proceed from the currently ongoing preliminary examination in the situation in Palestine to a full-fledged investigation. According to that logic the settlements are a war crime and if then Israel only ever advances housing for Jewish residents but not for Palestinian residents of the West Bank it wouldn’t look good, it would kind of provoke her.”

Coomarasamy made no effort to question the assertion that the ICC bases its decisions on whether or not it is ‘provoked’ and Ahren continued:

Ahren: “You might have heard even last week it made international headlines that Israel demolished illegal structures in the West Bank. I toured the West Bank today where settlement leaders have different opinions on this but some people are actually saying in a world where everything’s forbidden, everything’s allowed. If we never give permits for them to build we cannot expect them not to build and then it doesn’t look good if we only destroy and we don’t let them build.”

Coomarasamy: “If it is the first of the two theories you put forward and it is a bone, as you put it, to be thrown to the Palestinians, is it one that they’re likely to touch?”

Ahren: “Well yeah I mean of course they want to be a building for their people so it’s not something that they’re going to reject. I may say, some of these houses may already have been built and these permits are sort of coming retroactively. Palestinians, as I mentioned, do not get a lot of permits to build in the West Bank and there is natural growth of the Palestinian population there and therefore a lot of illegal structures are going on. These 700 permits might just be used sort of to legalise them after the fact.”

How the BBC can possibly claim that those unsupported speculations would help BBC audiences understand the story is of course unclear and listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Midnight News on August 1st (from 22:10 here) did little better.

Newsreader: “Israel has given rare approval for 700 Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank. It also said that 6,000 homes could be built for Jewish settlers. The announcement was made as President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner arrived in Jordan to drum up support for US attempts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. From Jerusalem, here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Tom Bateman of course recited the BBC’s usual partial mantra on ‘international law’.

Bateman: “The government decision gives the go-ahead for a significant number of new homes in settlements – which are seen as illegal under international law – and is said to further extend Israeli presence in the occupied West Bank. But it is Israel’s approval for Palestinian homes that is unusual. It is not clear whether these would be 700 new constructions or merely legal consent for existing homes in what is known as Area C. Here, Israel has full control and builds new settlement houses but new Palestinian homes are frequently demolished as Israel virtually never gives them building permission.”

Bateman next amplified an obviously absurd Palestinian claim and presented listeners with yet another speculative theory.

Bateman: “The Palestinian leadership called the announcement piracy. The timing, with Mr Kushner’s visit to the region underway, may be significant. The White House’s faltering attempts to deliver what Mr Trump has called ‘the ultimate deal’ between Israelis and Palestinians is based on money and backing from Arab states. This may have been one way of trying to convince them to take part in the process and address the long-held criticism that the administration’s support is heavily weighted towards Israel.”

That, apparently, is what the BBC thinks it can pass off as “a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers”.

Related Articles:

More repetition of the BBC’s partial narrative on construction

BBC News report omits significant information

BBC radio audiences hear one-sided reports from Yolande Knell

 

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.

Related Articles:

BBC widens its ‘illegal under international law’ mantra to include people

Quantifying BBC ‘due impartiality’ on ‘international law’

 

 

 

No dots to join in BBC News Gulf crisis backgrounder

The BBC News website currently has a backgrounder titled “Iran and the crisis in the Gulf explained” on its Middle East page.

For a self-defined explanatory article, some of its wording is remarkably vague. For example, under the sub-heading “What is the crisis about?” BBC audiences are told that:

“Behind the latest tensions is the fact that Iran and the US have increasingly accused each other of aggressive behaviour.

The US says recent activity by Iranian and Iranian-backed forces is destabilising the region and threatening US interests, while Iran says the US is trying to use military force and economic pressure to bring down its government.”

What is that “recent activity”? Who are “Iranian-backed forces”? How does “destabilising the region” manifest itself? The BBC isn’t telling.

Similarly, under the sub-heading “Why does the crisis matter?” readers find a rather trite statement which is not given any further exploration or explanation:

“…if the crisis erupts into a war, the consequences will be devastating.”

One of the places where “the consequences” of any such armed conflict will be felt is – as Iranian officials have said quite plainly – Israel and that is because Iran has protégés in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip on call for precisely such a scenario.

While Hizballah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are Iran’s main investments on Israel’s borders, it has also been rebuilding relations with Hamas, after ties took a blow in 2011 when the terror group refused to side with Iran’s Syrian partner, Bashar al Assad.

Although Hamas delegations have traveled to Tehran fairly regularly in recent years – including for Rouhani’s second inauguration – the latest of those visits included something of a novelty. For the first time in seven years, Hamas representatives (including Saleh al Arouri, Husam Badran, Osama Hamdan and Mousa Abu Marzouk) met with Iran’s ‘supreme leader’ Ali Khamenei.

“Iran’s state TV says a delegation from the Palestinian militant group Hamas that is visiting Iran has met with the country’s supreme leader.

The TV report on Monday says Ayatollah Ali Khamenei held talks with Hamas’ deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, who is heading the delegation. The Hamas delegation also met with Kamal Kharrazi, an adviser to Khamenei.

“Hamas is Iran’s first line of defense,” said Al-Arouri following the meeting.”

The Jerusalem Post added:

“Referring to recent escalations between the US and Iran, the Hamas official added that Hamas expressed “solidarity with the Islamic Republic of Iran and emphasize that any hostile action against Iran is actually hostile to Palestine and the current of resistance. We consider ourselves to be at the forefront of supporting Iran.”

Al-Arouri addressed how the capabilities of the Hamas terrorist group have advanced through the years, adding that “today, all of the occupied territories and the main Zionist centers are in the crosshairs of Palestinian resistance missiles.””

The significance of that Hamas visit to Tehran was clearly recognised by many major media organisations such as AP, the Washington Post and the New York Times. The BBC however apparently did not consider it newsworthy and so readers of the BBC’s backgrounder on the Gulf crisis are deprived of information which could go some way towards ameliorating its often opaque and unhelpful language.

Related Articles:

The BBC and media freedom – theory and practice

 

  

No BBC coverage of US designation of Hizballah MPs

The imposition of terror-related sanctions by the US Treasury on sitting members of parliament in another country is a story one would expect major media outlets to cover and indeed the New York Times, the Washington Post and the AP and Reuters news agencies, among many others, have done just that.

The BBC, however, has to date chosen to ignore the July 9th announcement concerning the designation of three members of Hizballah.

“Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated key Hizballah political and security figures leveraging their privileged positions to facilitate Hizballah’s malign agenda and do Iran’s bidding.  Specifically, OFAC designated Hizballah Members of Parliament Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Ra’d, and Hizballah security official Wafiq Safa, for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.  These individuals were designated under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.”

AFP noted that:

“It was the first time the U.S. Treasury had placed Hezbollah lawmakers on its blacklist, which forbid U.S. individuals and businesses with a U.S. branch – including leading international banks – from doing business with those sanctioned.

“It is time we believe for other nations around the world to recognize that there is no distinction between Hezbollah’s political and military wing,” a senior administration official who insisted on anonymity told journalists.”

Reuters reported that:

“Lebanon’s dollar-denominated sovereign bonds fell and the cost of insuring exposure to its debt rose on Wednesday after the sanctions move. […]

Lebanon is saddled with one of the heaviest public debt burdens in the world.”

Meanwhile, the most recent entry on the BBC News website’s ‘Lebanon’ page dates from June 24th.

Related Articles:

Hizballah London explosives story not newsworthy for the BBC

Usual mantras in BBC News report on Hizballah designation

Whitewashing Hizballah on BBC Radio 4

BBC News gives anodyne portrayal of new Lebanese government

 

 

Political messaging eclipses context in BBC WS Fourth of July report

Listeners to the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on July 4th heard a report from Yolande Knell in which information and context were side lined in favour of political messaging.

The introduction given by programme host Dan Damon (from 18:08 here) included the claim that there is such a thing as “international policy”.

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

Damon: “As the United States celebrates Independence Day, in Israel local officials and American diplomats are marking what they say are their closest ever ties. For the first time the US embassy to Israel has held its 4th of July party in Jerusalem; this of course after President Trump recognised that city as Israel’s capital – a controversial departure from long-time international policy. Palestinians and Left-wing Israelis have criticised recent actions by US Ambassador David Friedman in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their hoped-for future state. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell reports.”

Listeners heard the sound of fireworks before Knell began with an incomplete and context-free portrayal of part of a speech made by Israel’s prime minister. While listeners could be forgiven for assuming that Netanyahu had compared “relations with this White House” to those with previous US administrations, he did not. 

Knell: “Off with a bang. The US embassy held its first ever Independence Day party in Jerusalem this week. Watching the fireworks with their wives: the ambassador and Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He celebrated his close relations with this White House.”

Recording Netanyahu: “…and it’s wonderful to have the greatest power on earth not opposing the Jewish state but supporting the Jewish state. What a twist.”

Listeners then heard that archaeology is “an Israeli Right-wing nationalist agenda”, although it is doubtful that they would be aware of the background to Knell’s reference to the opening of an archaeological site seeing as the BBC has failed to produce any reporting on that story.

Knell: “And breaking past conventions, there’ve also been some unusual shows of US support for an Israeli Right-wing nationalist agenda. Wielding a hammer, Ambassador David Friedman smashed through an underground wall to open a controversial Jewish archaeology centre in East Jerusalem.”

Recording Friedman: “Why would an American ambassador come to this event and speak at this event? Some people – not necessarily friends of ours – are obsessing about my being here.”

Listeners heard the unexplained sound of some sort of machinery working before Knell continued:

Knell: “Above the site in Silwan, tunneling has badly damaged some Palestinian homes. And the action of the top diplomat was seen as confirmation that the US is recognising Israeli control over East Jerusalem and supports the presence of Jewish settlers here on land the Palestinians want for their own state.”

Knell’s promotion of the claim made by local activists that houses in Silwan have been “badly damaged” by the archaeological dig is not supported by an interview with a local resident which appeared in the Jerusalem Post:

“There are cracks in some walls. But this is not new. This has been going on for years. Some residents have hired lawyers to ask for financial compensation to renovate their homes. I heard that some people did receive compensation.”

Knell refrained from informing audiences that the people she dubbed “Jewish settlers” reside in legally purchased properties. Interestingly, the BBC’s own definition of ‘settlements’ is as follows:

“Settlements are residential areas built by the Israeli government in the territories occupied by Israel following the June 1967 war.” [emphasis added] 

That is not the case in Silwan, where some Israelis live in previously existing housing. However Knell steered listeners towards a narrative which characterises the purchase of property in certain areas of a city by people of a specific faith and ethnicity as “illegal” and undesirable. One of course doubts very much that the BBC would encourage its audiences to view neighbourhoods of mixed religion, ethnicity (and perhaps colour or sexual orientation) in any other city in such a light.

Knell also failed to inform listeners that Silwan was also previously known as Kfar Shiloach, that its Jewish residents were expelled by British Mandate forces after waves of Arab rioting and that, like the rest of the area conquered by Jordan in 1948, its subsequent annexation by Jordan was not recognised by the international community.

Knell next inadequately introduced her first interviewee:

Knell: “Jawad Siam lives locally.”

In breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, she did not bother to inform listeners that the professional political activist Siam (who has previously appeared in BBC content) has been campaigning against the archaeological dig for years.

Siam: “We are used that the USA supporting Israel but even it didn’t reach this level. He behaved like any other settlers in Palestine. He behaved like the Right wings in the Israeli parliament, in the Knesset. He does not see Palestinians have any right neither in Jerusalem nor Palestine.”

Knell continued with a reference to another inadequately presented event.

Knell: “Nearby, a musician plays the oud as the call to prayer rings out from the Al Aqsa Mosque. This gathering was at a sensitive spot by the Western Wall – the holiest site where Jews can pray. It was hosted by a pro-Netanyahu newspaper owned by a US billionaire who’s also a donor to President Trump and the discussion was about Washington’s latest peace efforts.”

That “sensitive spot” is the Davidson Center and the “gathering” was the ‘Israel Hayom Forum on US-Israel Relations’. Listeners then heard an edited recording of part of a speech made by US special Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt at that event.

Recording Greenblatt: “We might get there if people recognise that vague terms such as ‘international law’, ‘UN resolutions’ and ‘internationally recognised parameters’ are not always clear-cut…”

Knell: “The president’s advisor, Jason Greenblatt – just back from a workshop in Bahrain.”

Greenblatt: “We might get there if people stop pretending settlements – or what I like to call neighbourhoods and cities – are the reason for the lack of peace.”

Knell then made sure that listeners did not forget the BBC’s standard partial mantra on ‘settlements’.

Knell: “Jewish settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israeli authorities disagree. As Left-wing Israelis worry about changes in US language and long-held policy in East Jerusalem, I meet Hagit Ofran from the NGO ‘Peace Now’.”

Listeners were told nothing of the political agenda of ‘Peace Now – not least the fact that it organised a demonstration against the opening of the ‘Pilgrimage Road’ archaeological site – again despite BBC editorial guidelines stipulating that the “particular viewpoint” of interviewees should be clarified.

Ofran: “This is the most delicate place of our conflict – the volcanic core – a few meters from the Temple Mount, Haram al Sharif, al Aqsa mosque. You cannot come with sledgehammers and say this is Israel sovereignty. You should come with tweezers and settle this place in a way that respects everybody.”

Knell closed her report with more promotion of a specific narrative:

Knell: “Back at the embassy’s Independence Day party, most Israelis are delighted about this White House’s strong backing for their country. But there are warnings too: that by losing credibility as a peace broker with the Palestinians, it could make it harder to resolve the conflict here and that would ultimately go against Israel’s interests.”

While Knell was apparently not interested in reporting on the Second Temple era archaeological discoveries that she portrayed as “controversial”, she clearly was interested in using them to advance an overtly political and completely one-sided narrative on Jerusalem – and the Israelis living in one of its neighbourhoods.

Related Articles:

Excavating the Washington Post’s narrative on the Israel-Islamist conflict  (CAMERA)

BBC’s Bowen continues to pronounce the demise of the two-state solution

BBC’s Middle East editor Tweets about ‘attitudes’

BBC presents property purchased by Jews as ‘settlements’

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at “Hizballah’s Deep State: the creeping annexation of Lebanese State Institutions and political life”.

“In the political arena, Hizballah dominates a bloc which in turn controls both executive and legislature. Thus, it dominates both the decision making process and the process of implementing decisions. In the military arena, Hizballah posesses an armed force stronger than and of equal size to the official state military. It also clearly has a presence within and influence within the official armed forces. In the field of internal security, an ally of Hizballah commands the most powerful internal security body, and fellow travellers of the organization or appeasers of it command all the others. In economics Hizballah controls an economic empire of its own and can intimidate or implicate any bodies seeking to act against it.

The result is that it is impossible today in key areas of Lebanese life to determine exactly where the official state begins and Hizballah’s shadow state ends. The latter has penetrated and taken up residence in the former.”

2) At the Long War Journal, David Andrew Weinberg has documented how “Gulf governments sponsored anti-Semitic hate preachers during Ramadan 2019”.

“Ramadan is a holy month in the Sunni-ruled Gulf monarchies.  In addition to daylong fasting, one other aspect of the festival in this region is that governments sponsor a range of religious programming in order to burnish their religious credentials, particularly at state-run mosques and on state-owned television stations.

However, many Gulf governments fail to provide adequate oversight when sponsoring Ramadan programming, arranging events that feature religious leaders who have a longstanding record of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.  Even if such preachers are more measured in their remarks at these particular government-sponsored events, their state hosts still run the risk of legitimating proponents of bigotry.”

3) Miriam Elman explains why “BDS ‘Anti-Normalization’ Is a Mockery of Progressive Values” at the Algemeiner.

“Anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) promoters have long tried to stake out the moral high ground — depicting themselves as the champions of the oppressed, and positioning their movement as being on the right side of history.

But the reality is that BDS rarely acknowledges, or works to prevent, harm to Palestinians that is meted out by their own governments and societal extremists.

What’s even worse is that BDS leaders often egg on and incite these depredations with an anti-normalization campaign characterized by coercion and strong-arm tactics against peace activists and co-existence groups — along with just about any Palestinian who dares to cross the BDS picket line to cooperate with or even just talk to Israelis.”

4) Mark Dubowitz and Saeed Ghasseminejad of the FDD take a look at new US sanctions on Iran.

“President Trump issued a new executive order last week that mandated sanctions on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader’s Office, and several categories of related entities and individuals. The president’s order points toward the imposition of sanctions on key components of Khamenei’s massive business empire that have so far escaped sanctions.

Khamenei controls at least $200 billion of assets through three foundations: the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO), the Mostazafan Foundation, and the Razavi Economic Organization, the business arm of Astan Quds Razavi. These tax-exempt organizations have amassed wealth via corrupt practices such as the confiscation of dissidents’ properties. Their proceeds fund repression inside Iran and terrorism abroad.”

BBC impartiality – a case study

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality state that: (update: link to new version here

“News in whatever form must be treated with due impartiality, giving due weight to events, opinion and main strands of argument. The approach and tone of news stories must always reflect our editorial values, including our commitment to impartiality.”

And:

“Across our output as a whole, we must be inclusive, reflecting a breadth and diversity of opinion.  We must be fair and open-minded when examining the evidence and weighing material facts.  We must give due weight to the many and diverse areas of an argument. […]

Impartiality does not necessarily require the range of perspectives or opinions to be covered in equal proportions either across our output as a whole, or within a single programme, web page or item.  Instead, we should seek to achieve ‘due weight’.  For example, minority views should not necessarily be given equal weight to the prevailing consensus.

Nevertheless, the omission of an important perspective, in a particular context, may jeopardise perceptions of the BBC’s impartiality.  Decisions over whether to include or omit perspectives should be reasonable and carefully reached, with consistently applied editorial judgement across an appropriate range of output.”

The corporation’s coverage of the recent US initiated economic workshop in Bahrain provides an opportunity to look more closely at the issue of impartiality in BBC coverage ahead of a debate in the UK Parliament on that topic on July 15th.

Between June 20th and June 26th 2019 various BBC departments put out content relating to the conference in Bahrain. Common threads running through that coverage included:

  • Heavy promotion of Palestinian Authority and PLO talking points both by BBC journalists and by means of interviews with Palestinians.
  • Promotion of the notion of ‘the Palestinians’ as a homogeneous entity under one leadership with no mention of the long-standing splits between Palestinian factions and the fact that the PA and PLO do not represent the Palestinians as a whole.
  • The absence of any mention of the fact that Hamas and additional factions reject the idea of a peace agreement with Israel.
  • Exclusive promotion of the PLO’s interpretation of the ‘two-state solution’.
  • Use of partial terminology such as “illegal settlements”.
  • The absence of any mention of the participation of Palestinian businessmen in the conference and subsequent events.
  • Downplaying – and in most cases, ignoring – Palestinian terrorism and its role in creating the need for counter-terrorism measures.

While the table below is not exhaustive, it gives an overview of how the BBC addressed its obligation to “give due weight to the many and diverse areas of an argument” and to reflect “a breadth and diversity of opinion”.

As we see, the BBC chose to provide air-time to three times more Palestinian officials than Israeli officials and did not include any interviews with US officials in its coverage at all. Audiences saw or heard extensive and repeated comment from Palestinian civilians while just two Israeli voices were heard in a single item. Interviews were conducted with two representatives from US think tanks, one Saudi Arabian journalist and one inadequately presented UN official. 

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

[2] More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part one & More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part two

[3] BBC radio ‘impartial’ on payments to terrorists

[4] https://twitter.com/ZionistFed/status/1141985649131757569 & https://twitter.com/ZionistFed/status/1141986084525674496

[5] Another PA official gets unchallenging BBC radio air-time

[6] BBC widens its ‘illegal under international law’ mantra to include people

[7] More monochrome BBC WS radio reporting on the Bahrain workshop

[8] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-48743663

[9] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-48743429

[10] BBC R4 Bahrain conference coverage continues – part one & BBC R4 Bahrain conference coverage continues – part two

[11] BBC WS ‘Newshour’ listeners get little more than PA talking points

[12] BBC’s Mishal Husain promotes dubious peace plan framing – part one & BBC’s Mishal Husain promotes dubious peace plan framing – part two

Across a variety of BBC platforms, audiences were given a very specific and overwhelmingly one-sided view of the Bahrain economic workshop and the US peace initiative in general. “Due weight” was not given to opinions dissenting from the BBC’s chosen framing of the topic and audiences did not hear “a breadth and diversity of opinion” at all. 

Whether or not the fact that BBC journalists were given a ‘briefing’ by a Palestinian Authority representative three days before coverage began (a BBC decision which in itself is detrimental to “perceptions of the BBC’s impartiality”) had an effect on the chosen framing is of course difficult to determine but certainly the corporation’s coverage of the Bahrain economic workshop did not live up to its supposed standards of editorial impartiality. 

The purpose of those editorial standards is of course to enable the BBC to meet its public purpose obligations, including the provision of “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of […] the wider world”. In this case it is abundantly obvious that BBC journalists were far more intent on establishing a specific narrative than they were committed to providing accurate and impartial news reports. 

Related Articles:

BBC journalists get a ‘briefing’ from a past interviewee

No BBC reporting on arrest of Bahrain workshop participant

 

BBC Watch prompts correction of inaccurate US ambassador quote

As documented here last month, readers of a BBC News website report headlined “Golan Heights: Israel unveils ‘Trump Heights’ settlement” which was published on June 16th were told that:

“US Ambassador David Friedman, who attended the ceremony, called the settlement “well deserved, but much appreciated”.” [emphasis added]

In fact, Ambassador Friedman said:

“I want to thank you for the extraordinary gesture that you and the State of Israel are making to the president of the United States,” […] “It is well deserved, but it is much appreciated, and we look forward to work[ing] with you and with the government of Israel to continue to strengthen the unbreakable alliance between the United States and Israel.”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning that inaccurate representation which included a link to the ambassador’s actual statement. A week later we were informed that “it may take a little longer before we can reply”. Two weeks after the complaint was originally submitted we received a reply which included the following:

“Thank you for writing in with your feedback about the BBC News story “Golan Heights: Israel unveils ‘Trump Heights’ settlement” (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-48656431).

I note your concerns about how Ambassador Friedman’s quote was described […]

We have looked at the quote, and would agree that a change is required to make the meaning clearer. The line now reads: “Ambassador David Friedman, who attended the ceremony, called the move “well deserved, but much appreciated”.”

However, no footnote was added to the report to inform readers of that amendment.

The continued absence of a corrections page on the BBC News website of course means that those who read that article between June 16th and July 2nd, when that amendment was made, remain unaware of the fact that they were given inaccurate information.

Related Articles:

BBC misquotes US Ambassador in Golan Heights report

BBC’s Mishal Husain promotes dubious peace plan framing – part two

In part one of this post we saw how presenter Mishal Husain gave listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on June 26th a very partial view of the Arab Peace Initiative and promoted the notion that the United States had “killed hopes of a Palestinian state”.

Later on in the programme  (from 2:35:28 here) listeners heard a seven and a half minute long item concerning the Bahrain economic workshop taking place on that day which was introduced by Husain using the same framing.

Once again Husain refrained from informing audiences that Hamas does not support the Arab Peace Initiative and – as in all BBC coverage of the Bahrain workshop – she misleadingly presented “the Palestinians” as a homogenous group, failing to clarify both that Hamas opposes any peace plan and that some Palestinian businessmen did take part in the conference.

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

Husain: “A US sponsored conference on economic development in the Palestinian territories has opened in Bahrain. Jared Kushner says it’s the opportunity of the century – part of his father-in-law Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which has not involved the Palestinians at all. As the event began Mr Kushner spoke of any future peace deal not being along the lines of the widely accepted Arab Peace Initiative which envisages a Palestinian state alongside Israel. I’ve been speaking to Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN. But first, Michael Lynk – UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine.” 

Michael Lynk’s actual title is “Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967”. Husain made no effort to inform listeners of his “particular viewpoint” as required by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality and so they had no idea that behind the ostensibly ‘neutral’ statements they heard from a UN representative lies a long record of anti-Israel activity.

“Michael Lynk […] plays a leadership role in numerous Arab lobby groups, including CEPAL, which promotes “Annual Israeli Apartheid Week” events; signs anti-Israel petitions; calls to prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes; addresses “One State” conferences that seek to eliminate Israel; and argues that “the solution” to “the problem” must go back to Israel’s very creation in 1948, which he calls “the start of ethnic cleansing.””

Unsurprisingly to anyone who is familiar with Michael Lynk, he had nothing at all to say about Palestinian terrorism.

Lynk: “On the one hand the concept of building a prosperous and vibrant Palestinian economy is one that we would all support but trying to put an economic peace ahead of political settlement I think is almost certainly going to fail and the most important reasons for the feeble Palestinian economy are tied to the 52-year-old Israeli occupation.”

Husain: “But traditionally the political settlement idea has been pursued first and that hasn’t worked. Is it possible that by putting the focus on economic prosperity you might create a different climate for political solutions to be talked about?”

Lynk: “I think not. You know, in order to have a successful economy any country is going to need control over its own territory, the ability to trade and to export, the ability to develop a vibrant labour market, the ability to create a supportive investment infrastructure and the Palestinians have none of these economic freedoms. Unless you solve the political problem first and end the occupation, any focus on the economy I believe is going to be doomed.”

Husain failed to clarify to listeners that, despite the security measures made necessary by Palestinian terrorism, the Palestinians did manage to export 94.8 million dollars-worth of goods in 2017. She went on to re-promote her partial framing of the Arab Peace Initiative, making no effort to inform listeners of its additional aspects – in particular those relating to Palestinian refugees – which make it a non-starter.

Husain: “Well it would seem from Jared Kushner’s envisaging of a way to solve the political problem…I mean he has…he has said the Arab Peace Initiative – this is the plan that envisages two states, one Israeli, one…one Palestinian – ahm…will not happen. ‘If there is ever a deal it’s not going to be along the lines of the Arab Peace Initiative’ he said. ‘Any future deal will be somewhere between that initiative and the Israeli position’. So it seems that – as many people would have suspected for some time – that the two state solution is dying or already dead.”

Listeners then heard Lynk’s interpretation of the two-state solution which, unsurprisingly, dovetails with that of the PLO – including the erroneous notion of “’67 borders”.

Lynk: “Yes and I agree with you. You know the…keep in mind that the international community has for a long time laid out what are the essential elements of a final political settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It means an independent, contiguous Palestinian state based on the ’67 borders alongside of Israel. It means a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. It means an absolute end to the illegal Israeli settlements. It means a just solution for the Palestinian refugees and it means obviously guarantees. That’s not what we’ve been hearing from the statements being made by the three advisors on the Middle East peace plan. They’ve given their blessings to Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank – which is illegal under international law. They have envisaged something much less than a fully sovereign Palestinian state. None of this is any basis for trying to build trust that you’re leading towards a viable, just and fair settlement for both sides.”

Following that unchallenged promotion of PLO talking points from a supposedly ‘neutral’ source, Husain moved on to tick the ‘impartiality’ box with her next interviewee, telling listeners what “is absent from this plan” even though the relevant part of it has yet to be published.

Husain: “Ehm…let me turn to Danny Danon – Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations – who is listening to you, Michael Lynk. Ambassador Danon; isn’t it true that any real concept of peace involves political and economic freedom and that is absent from this plan?”

Danon: “Well I think it is unfortunate that you have a very important discussion taking place and the Palestinians are again ignoring it. So we welcome the US initiative. We are open-minded to discuss new ideas. But we all know that in order to move things on the ground, you need all the parties engaged. Today the Palestinians are saying out loud ‘we do not recognise the Israelis as partners, we do not recognise the US as mediators’ and it is unfortunate.”

Husain then took on the role of Palestinian advocate.

Husain: “Well, to not recognise as mediators, that is because this administration has shown very clearly which side they favour in all the actions that they have taken so far and the reason the Palestinians aren’t there at this event is because it is not discussing all issues. It is not discussing any of the political issues.”

Danon: “So as we know this is only the first part of the plan. We will have to wait to see the entire plan and to discuss it.”

Husain: “When is the rest of the plan coming?”

Danon: “It is up to the US administration to decide about that. We presume it will be after the elections in Israel and I don’t know if we will support everything in the plan but we respect the efforts and we welcome the involvement of very original partners and I think the fact that you have today Arab countries coming together, I think this is the right way to move forward.”

Despite having just acknowledged that the political part of the plan has yet to be published, Husain once again went on to claim to know what it includes.

Husain: “The long struggle of the Jewish people for self-determination and for your own homeland: you would never have accepted the sort of state that is now being put forward for the Palestinians – if you can even call it a state – somewhere where there are no full political rights alongside any economic rights.”

Danon: “So I think when you look at the history of the Jewish people we never had an ambition to hurt anyone else, to support terrorism or to encourage incitement. And I published an op-ed at the New York Times yesterday where I think it’s about time that the Palestinians will look at the future and not the past. For example, take the payment they are paying for convicted terrorists. Why they have this culture of hate? Let’s move on, recognise Israel and negotiate with Israel.”

Mr Danon’s op-ed can be found here.

Husain: “In that piece you wrote you used the word ‘surrender’. You said ‘there is nothing wrong with Palestinians surrendering – that would create the opportunity to transform Palestinian society’. I mean that, they would say, is a very offensive way to…to talk about their struggle for their rights.”

Danon: “You have to read the entire article because I use the word surrender to surrender their ideas of moving the Jews out of Israel…”

Husain interrupted with her own very revealing interpretation of the idea that Palestinians should accept that the Jews are not going to be driven out of the region:

Husain [interrupts] “To surrender their dream of statehood.”

Danon: “…and preaching of hatred. They should forget about that. We are there to stay and they should accept that. They should teach their children that that is, that Israel is there to stay. In order to move forward we have to recognise Israel and we have to see how we can live together or one side by side with the other and move forward. Until they will not do that they will stay where they are. And look what’s happening today: Israel is booming, our economy is stronger than ever and they are staying behind.”

Once again Husain promoted a strawman:

Husain: “Are you saying they should accept there will be one state in the future – the Jewish state?”

Danon: “I say they should enter the room. It’s legitimate that they will come with their own aspirations, their own demands, requests, requirements. And we will come with ours. You know, the international community can help and I think the financial help is well appreciated but at the end it will be us and the Palestinians living there. That’s why eventually we will have to engage in a direct dialogue.”

Apparently reluctant to close the item on that note, Husain let the partisan UN rapporteur have the last word.

Husain: “Michael Lynk: just a final thought from you. Do you think that the Palestinians should be engaging in this dialogue, however much they object to the terms in which it’s framed?”

Lynk: “Well that’s entirely up to them. You know, to be clear, as a UN special rapporteur I don’t speak for the Palestinians and I don’t speak for the UN. Really the question which I can answer is is this particular path or vision likely to lead to a just and durable peace and as I’ve said. I cannot see it.”

Husain rounded off the item with yet another misrepresentation of Lynk’s title:

Husain: “Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Ambassador Danny Danon of Israel, thank you very much.”

So what could Radio 4 audiences learn from this item? They heard a partisan and incomplete portrayal of the Arab Peace Initiative with no explanation of why it has gone nowhere in the seventeen years since it was produced. They were led to believe that that inadequately presented initiative is the only game in town and that by not embracing it in its entirety, the US has “killed” the chances for a Palestinian state. They got a one-sided explanation of the two-state solution which complies with the PLO’s interpretation of that concept. They heard Mishal Husain purport to tell them what is in a plan that has not yet been published. They did not however receive any information concerning the Palestinians’ repeated rejection of peace plans based on the two-state solution and the sole reference to Palestinian terrorism came from the Israeli interviewee.

In other words, as the BBC’s tight framing of the topic of the Bahrain economic workshop continued, audiences were once again denied the full range of information which would enhance better and comprehensive understanding of the topic.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Mishal Husain promotes dubious peace plan framing – part one

BBC News website’s explanation of the two-state solution falls short

BBC News amplifies PLO’s interpretation of the two-state solution

BBC ignores UNHRC’s nomination of controversial official