Accuracy and impartiality fails in Welsh language show on BBC iPlayer – part one

Among the channels offered to UK viewers on BBC iPlayer is one called S4C.

While S4C (Sianel Pedwar Cymru – Channel Four Wales) is not a BBC channel, it does get some of its programming from the BBC under what the director of BBC Wales has called “a partnership”. S4C receives most of its funding from the obligatory licence fee paid by UK households and currently also gets funding from the UK government. Its content, as seen above, is available on BBC iPlayer which is subject to OFCOM regulation.

Among the Welsh-language programmes produced by that media organisation which are currently available to users of BBC iPlayer are three episodes of a series called ‘Y Wal’ (‘The Wall’). One of those episodes is described as follows in Welsh:

“Ffion Dafis visits one of the world’s most controversial boundaries – the wall that separates Israel and Palestine.”

And in English:

“Presenter Ffion Dafis visits the wall that separates Israel and Palestine.”

Those unable to view BBC iPlayer can see that programme here. English language subtitles can be activated by clicking the subtitles icon in the lower right corner and choosing ‘Saesneg’.

According to the credits at the end of the programme – which is one of the least impartial pieces of content that we have seen aired on any British channel for a long time – it was made with the cooperation of the Welsh government. The person presenting this programme – Ffion Dafis – is apparently an actress (rather than a journalist) on her first visit to the region and she makes no effort whatsoever to present audiences with an accurate and impartial account of its subject matter.

As readers are no doubt aware, the anti-terrorist fence constructed after hundreds of Israelis were murdered by Palestinian suicide bombers is mostly – over 90% – a metal fence. Viewers of this programme, however, do not see even one camera shot of those parts of the fence: throughout the entire 48 minute programme they are exclusively shown dozens of images of the minority part of the structure that, due to danger from snipers, is made out of concrete. Throughout the whole programme viewers also hear the entire structure called a ‘wall’ even though that description is inaccurate.

Another feature of this programme is its exclusive use of the politically partisan term ‘Palestine’. As has been noted here on numerous occasions, the BBC’s style guide instructs journalists that “There is no independent state of Palestine today, although the stated goal of the peace process is to establish a state of Palestine alongside a state of Israel” and hence “in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity”.

The programme begins with an airbrushed account of Palestinian terrorism during the Second Intifada.

Dafis: “The year 2000 – and once again there was increasing tension between Palestine and Israel. A wave of terror attacks swept through Israel. Israel responded with the full force of its military might. In 2002, Israel decided to build a wall. A wall to stop the killings and restore peace. But the wall has bred hatred on both sides. I’m going to visit one of the world’s most controversial walls. I want to understand why it was built and see the effect it has had on life in Palestine. As we meet brave individuals who dare to challenge the system, what are the chances of us seeing this wall coming down?”

After the Welsh actress on her first visit to the region has told viewers that Jerusalem “is a familiar sight to me even though I’m looking at it for the first time” because she “went to Sunday School as a child and I suppose it’s part of my history”, she goes on:

Dafis: “But people have fought over this holy land for generations. While some have tried to build bridges, others have fuelled the conflict.”

Viewers then [02:05] see an image of the US flag and hear a recording of the US president saying “it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” So much for media impartiality.

Additional commentary that does not meet any definition of journalistic ‘due impartiality’ (and concurrently promotes inaccuracies) is seen throughout the entire film.

[04:30] Dafis: “What goes through my mind as I stand here is the audacity of the wall. Just the way it ploughs through villages, through streets, through rivers and orchards. The devastation it leaves in its wake is plain for all to see. But according to the Israelis, it is here for a purpose [shrugs].”

[15:23] Dafis: “This wall has been built on foundations of fear and a need to protect. But the major question I have is where is the respect? This isn’t a cute white picket fence in a garden but a huge monstrosity knocked into the front room of a neighbour. Maybe one side feels safe but the other side definitely feels like it’s being suffocated.”

[19: 04] Dafis: “It’s clear that I’m standing in one of Palestine’s most fertile valleys. That much is evident. What’s also clear is that there’s a monstrosity being built on both sides of this valley. But the truth is that until you sit with an 84 year-old [Palestinian] woman who could be my grandmother, until you look into those eyes and realise the pain and the injustice then I don’t think people will ever understand one another. Maybe that is fundamentally the problem. I don’t know.”

[25:36] Dafis: “I think it’s extremely important for them [children in Aida refugee camp] to realise that growing up like this, without rights and surrounded by a high wall, is not right. It’s not normal for any child.”

[30:03] Dafis: “Imprisonment is the only word to describe what Palestinians go through here. Going through the checkpoints is like being in a big livestock mart. The wall is ludicrous. There is no other word.”

[46:58] Dafis: “The horrors taking place here can no longer be denied. Names like Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Judea, Jericho are part of a great silent war. These are not peaceful places at all. I’ve touched and met people in these places and if something like this doesn’t alter me then I don’t think my heart is actually beating.”

One possible clue as to why this film is so one-sided comes at 31:37 when Dafis tells the camera that “our sound man, our driver and our fixer are Palestinian” while claiming that “they could end up being detained overnight”.

Referring to a non-incident in which she and her crew could not proceed along a particular road due to maintenance work being carried out, Dafis told viewers: “That experience with the Israeli army really shook me” and viewers then saw the unidentified fixer launch into a long monologue which provides some context to the backdrop to this film.

Fixer: “What’s the worst thing that can happen? To die? Many people have died before us for Palestine. We are not more precious than they are or than their life. You just say ‘OK, whatever, let it happen how it is or let it come’. Many people start to think OK only God protects me and others say what if I die now? Nothing will happen. So that’s why we lose the sense of life. No-one cares and then we face fear, we face…we see our rights being smashed on the floor and that we are treated as if we weren’t even human beings with soul and feelings and emotions. It’s like creatures or insects anyone can step on then and just walk. So when you feel that you stop caring.”

Part of a fixer’s job is to set up interviews and in this film viewers see twice as many Palestinian participants as Israelis. In addition to three farmers with unsubstantiated stories, a resident of al Walajah and Ahmad Sukar, head of the Wadi Fukin village council, viewers hear from representatives of assorted NGOs without any explanation being given of the political agenda of organisations including the Society of St Yves, al Rowwad, Combatants for Peace or Parents Circle Families Forum.

Among the four Israeli interviewees one is a staff member at a Yeshiva in Gush Etzion and two are members of an NGO which self-describes as “a joint Palestinian-Israeli grassroots peacemaking initiative”. The only Israeli interviewee to have lost a family member in a Palestinian terror attack is also co-director of the Parents Circle, Rami Elhanan. Despite Palestinian terror being the reason for the construction of the anti-terrorist fence which is supposedly this programme’s subject matter, that information is only revealed to viewers three-quarters of the way into the programme, just after Elhanan has told viewers:

[34:02] Elhanan: “The Palestinians live in their cages unable to go out in any way. The Israelis are sitting in their coffee houses, drinking coffee. They don’t want to know what is going on down [under] their noses, 200 meters behind their backs. They prefer not to know. The Israeli media is cooperating with this and the whole situation is like a false paradise. A bubble if you like.”

As the above examples show, this S4C programme does not even pretend to present its subject matter in an impartial fashion. In part two of this post we will review the programme’s accuracy.  

Related articles: 

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – Part 1

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – Part 2

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3

BBC’s Knell promotes political church campaign supported by BBC funder

Resources:

S4C complaints

BBC complaints

 

 

 

 

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Superficial BBC News report on UN General Assembly votes

On December 7th a report about events at the previous day’s session at the UN General Assembly was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Vote condemning Hamas for firing rockets into Israel fails at UN“.

As noted here previously, had it been passed that US drafted resolution would have marked the UNGA’s first ever condemnation of missile attacks against Israeli civilians by Hamas and other Gaza Strip based terror groups.

The words ‘civilians’ and ‘civilian’ appear five times in the text of that draft resolution – twice in relation to the effects of Hamas’ policies on the population of the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, the BBC’s portrayal of the draft resolution made no mention of the civilians who are the targets of the rockets fired “into Israel”.

“A US-sponsored resolution condemning militant group Hamas for firing rockets into Israel has failed to pass at the UN General Assembly.”

An equally whitewashed portrayal of the launching of military grade projectiles at civilian populations was found later on in the report.

“Last month saw a flare-up of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. Hundreds of rockets were fired into Israel, with Israeli aircraft hitting scores of militant targets in response.” [emphasis added]

Readers were told that:

“The resolution won a majority of 87 to 57, with 33 abstentions, but did not reach the required two-thirds backing.”

And:

“A vote to require a two-thirds majority was narrowly backed by 75 to 72, with 26 abstentions.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said the resolution had been hijacked by this procedural decision.”

BBC audiences were not however informed that the request for a vote to apply the two‑thirds majority rule – described by one experienced commentator as “a rarely used rule of procedure” – came from “Kuwait, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group”.

While readers were told nothing of the intense campaign which Hamas had conducted before the vote or of the involvement of the PLO and Palestinian Authority in trying to defeat the draft resolution, they were informed of post-vote comments from a Hamas spokesman and an Iranian representative. The PA president’s reaction, however, went unreported by the BBC.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also welcomed the result, despite being engaged in a bitter intra-Palestinian rivalry with Hamas over control of Gaza. “The presidency thanked all the states that voted against the American draft resolution, affirming that it will not allow for the condemnation of the Palestinian national struggle,” a statement from the PA’s Wafa mouthpiece read.”

Refraining from clarifying to readers that any electoral mandate secured by Hamas in elections nearly 13 years ago is no longer valid, the BBC’s report amplifies a view of a terror organisation responsible for the murders of hundreds of civilians as “legitimate”.

“Hamas, or its military wing, is designated as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US, EU, and UK, as well as other powers.

Its supporters see it as a legitimate resistance movement which came to power through elections, last held in 2006.”

The violent coup which brought the Gaza Strip under the control of Hamas is completely whitewashed from the BBC’s account: “…Hamas, the militant group that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007…” 

Clearly this BBC report fails to provide readers with the full background essential for complete understanding of why and how this proposed UNGA resolution condemning terrorism against a civilian population was scuppered. 

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BBC silent on upcoming UNGA vote

 

 

BBC silent on upcoming UNGA vote

This coming Thursday – December 6th – the UN General Assembly is set to vote on a US drafted resolution which, if passed, would mark the body’s first ever condemnation of missile attacks against Israeli civilians by Hamas and other Gaza Strip based terror groups.

“The UN General Assembly will vote Thursday on a US-drafted resolution that would condemn the Palestinian Hamas terror movement, a measure championed by US Ambassador Nikki Haley.

The United States won crucial backing from the European Union for the draft resolution that condemns the firing by Hamas of rockets into Israel and demands an end to the violence.”

Predictably, Hamas is not pleased with that draft resolution.

“Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh sent an open letter to United Nations General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa and to its member states late Wednesday, slamming a US-led push to condemn the Islamist terror group’s rocket fire at Israeli cities and calling it an effort to “delegitimize Palestinian resistance.” […]

“We in the Islamic Resistance Movement — Hamas are following up with great anger and condemnation the ongoing and miserable efforts by the United States of America, not only by adopting the Israeli narrative of the conflict, but also by providing all the necessary material and moral support for the Israeli occupation to continue its aggression against our people and deprive them of their basic rights of freedom, independence and self-determination, guaranteed by all international conventions and laws,” Haniyeh wrote in the letter.

Hamas, which is recognized by the US and the EU as a terror organization and which openly seeks Israel’s destruction, described the Israeli “occupation” in the letter as spanning “more than seven decades,” meaning since 1948.”

As the JCPA reports, the Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority has joined Hamas’ efforts to prevent the resolution from passing.

“Riyad Mansour, the PLO’s permanent observer to the United Nations, is working very hard to torpedo the U.S. draft resolution, claiming that it “is intended to cause harm to the entire Palestinian people.”

At the end of November 2018, Hussein al-Sheikh, a member of the Fatah Central Council, called upon UN member states to reject the U.S. draft resolution condemning Hamas, and he expressed his opposition to the wording of the resolution.

Abbas Zaki, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, has also been working against the draft resolution. On December 2, 2018, he stated that the U.S. draft resolution is a “racist draft” and the Palestinians would fight it in every way possible because it harms their struggle. […]

The Fatah movement, or the Palestinian Authority, is concerned that a precedent will be created if the UN General Assembly condemns the terror acts against Israel that Fatah refers to as “legitimate resistance” to the occupation. […]

A senior Fatah official stated that the unity displayed by Fatah and Hamas on this issue reflect the fact that Fatah reserves for itself the option of returning in the future to the “armed struggle” against Israel if there is no significant breakthrough in the deadlocked diplomatic process, and it will ally itself to Hamas through “resistance” (meaning terror).”

In addition to asking Arab League nations for their support, Hamas also turned to its Iranian patrons.

“Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke Monday with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh about the United States’ efforts to submit a resolution condemning the terror organization at the UN.

Zarif added that Iran would do everything in its power to prevent the resolution from going up to a vote.”

The last BBC report tagged ‘United Nations’ appeared on November 22nd. The corporation’s audiences are therefore unaware of the fact that the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and the PLO – headed by the supposedly ‘moderate’ Mahmoud Abbas – are actively trying to thwart condemnation of acts of terror against Israeli civilians at the United Nations.

Weekend long read

1) A reminder that those wishing to make a submission to the BBC’s public consultation concerning its editorial guidelines have until November 12th to do so.

Background reading concerning the consultation – including details of where to send a submission – can be found here.

The BBC’s proposed draft of the revised guidelines can be found here. Of particular interest is Section 11 – commencing on page 122 – titled ‘War, Terror and Emergencies’. As regular readers will be aware, the BBC’s record of adhering to its existing guidance on ‘Language When Reporting Terrorism’ is inconsistent.

The existing editorial guidelines (published in 2010) can be found here.

2) The ITIC reports on Hizballah’s designation as a transnational criminal group by the US.

“In October 2018, the US administration adopted a series of legislative and law enforcement measures against Hezbollah and all those supporting it. These measures have met with broad bipartisan support in Congress and have been approved by President Trump. These measures provide law enforcement agencies with an improved “toolkit” in the struggle against Hezbollah and the international crime in which it is involved. […]

Aside from Hezbollah, four other international drug and criminal cartels based in Latin America were included in the list. In order to manage the struggle against these leading groups, a special task force headed by the Deputy Attorney General was set up, with the participation of prosecutors and experts with experience in the war against drugs, terrorism, organized crime and money laundering.”

3) General Michael Hostage and Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Corn take a look at “Israel’s Next Northern War: Operational and Legal Challenges“.

“Hezbollah today is highly competent, adaptable and lethal. Its forces have gained invaluable battlefield experience in Syria and amassed more weaponry than 95 percent of the world’s conventional militaries, including at least 120,000 rockets and missiles. This is more than all of Europe’s NATO members combined, and ten times as many as when it last went to war with Israel in 2006. […]

Despite this quantum leap in its capabilities, Hezbollah is under no illusion about its ability to inflict military defeat on Israel. It will not seek victory in the valleys of Lebanon or the skies over Israel, but in the court of public opinion.”

4) The FDD reports on a recent ISIS attack in Libya which did not receive any BBC English language coverage.

“Islamic State (IS) militants on October 28 launched a surprise attack on al-Fuqaha, a small town in central Libya, killing at least four people, including the mayor’s son and two police officers, and kidnapping 10 others. Both the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the U.S. Embassy strongly condemned the deadly attack and called for the immediate release of those kidnapped. The attack is the second major terrorist incident in two months, reflecting IS’s commitment to the guerrilla warfare strategy it has adopted in Libya after the loss of its coastal stronghold of Sirte in December 2016.”

How did the BBC’s Yolande Knell frame Israeli visits to Gulf states?

Two very similar reports from BBC Jerusalem correspondent Yolande Knell have recently appeared on different platforms.

A written report titled “Israel-Arab ties warm up after long deep freeze” was published in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 6th with a synopsis telling BBC audiences that:

“An Israeli charm offensive is making once unlikely friends in the Arab world, worrying Palestinians.”

On the same day listeners to two editions of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ heard an audio report from Knell – from 08:37 here and from 14:07 here. In both cases it was introduced (by presenters Razia Iqbal and Rebecca Kesby) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original]

“Israel leaders often describe their country as being in a tough neighbourhood but recently there have been some extraordinary signs of friendliness with Arab states. Israel’s prime minister was in Oman, two of his ministers then went to the United Arab Emirates and today another is back in Muscat. And that’s despite the fact that Oman and the UAE – like most Arab countries – have no official diplomatic relations with Israel. The Palestinians are worried about what these new alliances – bound up in common fears about Iran’s regional ambitions and backed by the White House – will mean for their nationalist cause. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell reports.”

Knell’s framing of this story – which places the Palestinian reaction to events unrelated directly to them at the focus of her reports – is obviously noteworthy. Under the sub-heading “Palestinians wary” readers of the written report were told that:

“However, Palestinians are alarmed by the new alliances, developing as President Trump promises to present his “Deal of the Century” plan to end their conflict with Israel.

They fear his administration is looking to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others to pressure them into accepting a peace agreement that does not meet their long-standing demands.

“This kind of attempt to normalise Israel within the region, without Israel normalising its relationship with Palestine and remaining as an occupying power, is counterproductive and dangerous,” says Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) official.

She suggests the latest developments threaten the legitimacy of the Arab Peace Initiative – which the 22 members of the Arab League signed up to in 2002.

It offers Israel normal diplomatic relations with Arab states only in exchange for its full withdrawal from Arab lands it captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East War.”

Knell made no effort to explain to her readers why an initiative launched over 16 years ago has to this day made no progress or why they should take Hanan Ashrawi’s word that it is at all relevant.

Ashrawi was also featured in Knell’s audio report, but with no mention of her PLO position.

Knell: “Here in the occupied West Bank Palestinian leaders are alarmed by this regional shift taking place as President Trump promises to present his ‘deal of the century’ to end their conflict with Israel. They cut off ties with the US last year, saying it wasn’t an honest peace broker and they fear the White House is looking to its powerful Arab allies, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to pressure them into a peace agreement that falls well short of their long-standing demands. Hanan Ashrawi is a senior Palestinian official.”

Ashrawi: “I think this is part of an overall strategy by the Americans to try to get normalisation with the Arab world before Israel withdraws from the occupied territories: what we call the outside-in approach.”

Knell did not bother to inform listeners that under the terms of the Oslo Accords – signed by the body which Ashrawi represents – the issue of borders is supposed to be resolved in final status negotiations between the two parties.

Another aspect of Knell’s framing of this story is her promotion of a theory allegedly advanced by unidentified “analysts” which was portrayed in the written report as follows:

“Analysts suggest the pivotal role ascribed to Saudi Arabia in reviving the peace process has been thrown into doubt by the shocking murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

However, in another remarkable move, comments by Mr Netanyahu on Friday seemed to show tacit support for the powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who has been accused of having a role in Khashoggi’s death – something the kingdom has denied.

He said Mr Khashoggi’s killing was “horrendous” but should not be allowed to lead to upheaval in Saudi Arabia “because the larger problem is Iran.””

In the audio report listeners heard the following self-contradicting statements from Knell:

Knell: “But there’s been a set-back to the warming of Saudi and Israeli ties: the international outcry over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country’s consulate in Turkey. The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman – known as MBS – has had his reputation badly damaged by the scandal, although he denies involvement. Remarkably, one international leader giving him tacit support is Mr Netanyahu.” [emphasis added]

Recording Netanyahu: “What happened in the Istanbul consulate was horrendous and it should be duly dealt with. Yet at the same time I say that it’s very important for the stability of the world – of the region and of the world – that Saudi Arabia remain stable.”

Listeners were not informed that – despite Knell’s claim of “international outcry” – just one day before her report was aired, seventy-five country delegates to the UN Human Right Council had heaped praise on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

Another interesting aspect of Knell’s reporting is its downplaying of what some analysts see as the prime motivation behind improved relations between Israel and Gulf states. Readers of the written report found a tepid portrayal of Iranian regional actions and policies which, notably, whitewashed its financial support for Hamas from the picture.

“The main reason is a shared concern over Iran. Israel, like many Gulf Arab countries, worries about Iran’s ambitions and sees it as a destabilising force in the Middle East.

Tehran has been directly involved in conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and supports rebels fighting in Yemen and militant groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

In the audio report listeners were told that: [emphasis added]

Knell: “Meetings between Israeli and Gulf Arab officials have long taken place in secret but now they’re happening openly, despite a lack of progress on peace with the Palestinians. The main reason is the shared concern about Iran…”

Knell ended both her reports with more clear messaging to BBC audiences that a story concerning diplomatic relations between Israel and Gulf states is actually about Palestinians.

Written:

“All these signs of a regional shift are popular with ordinary Israelis and even Mr Netanyahu’s political rivals have praised his advances in the Gulf.

However, the Arab public – for whom the Palestinian issue remains very emotional – will be far harder to win over without a peace agreement.

So for now, Arab states are unlikely to fully embrace Israel. Instead we should expect more previously unthinkable invitations, gestures of recognition and warm handshakes.”

Audio:

“Such signs of new relations are very popular with ordinary Israelis although the Arab public – still very sensitive to the Palestinian issue – will be much harder to win over without a peace agreement.”

While BBC audiences obviously got a generous dose of PLO (and Hamas) messaging in both Knell’s reports, the question of how that contributes to their understanding of this story is clearly debatable.

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A BBC programme from Jerusalem – and you can take part

The BBC television and radio programme ‘Global Questions’ will be visiting Jerusalem next month.

“As the state of Israel celebrates the 70th anniversary of its creation, Global Questions travels to Jerusalem to ask what the next 70 years might bring.

Ever since its birth, Israel has been dominated by conflict with Palestinians and its neighbouring Arab states. Is more conflict inevitable or could there be a lasting peace that allows the next generation to live without war?

The Middle East is awaiting President Trump’s much anticipated peace plan – billed as the “deal of the century”. But the Palestinians see America’s Embassy move to Jerusalem as a dangerously provocative gesture.

Global Questions brings together a high-profile panel and an audience of young Palestinians and Israelis to see whether they believe the next 70 years could bring an end to the conflict that has scarred the region for so long.”

Members of the public can take part in that December 5th programme by emailing globalquestions@bbc.co.uk.

Alternatively, questions can be submitted using the webform here.

A politicised BBC report on a new train line

On November 1st an unattributed filmed report titled “On board the new Jerusalem-Tel Aviv fast train” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page with the following synopsis:

“It’s been a long time coming, but Israeli commuters are finally able to board double-decker high-speed trains on a new link from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.

Construction has been plagued by engineering and planning challenges, and the last section of the line is still not open. The route has also angered some Palestinians, as part of the track runs in tunnels under the occupied West Bank.

Transport Minister Yisrael Katz hopes it will eventually whisk passengers from secular, liberal Tel Aviv to a “Donald Trump Station” next to the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites.”

Roughly halfway into the film, its focus changes from the subject of the new train line itself to politicised messaging.

“But Palestinians in this village in the occupied West Bank are angry. A tunnel runs under part of the area but many Palestinians don’t have permits to enter Israel, so can’t use the train.”

Issa Odeh al-Jamel, Beit Surik resident:

“This train passes through Beit Surik land and we are not even allowed to use it. This is itself is a catastrophe for us.”

“Palestinians say Israel is illegally using occupied territory.”

The village of Beit Surik is located in Area B and its residents are Palestinian Authority citizens. The land under which – rather than “through” – the railway tunnel runs is located in Area C which, under the terms of the Oslo Accords, is under Israeli control – including planning. Of course the BBC did not bother to clarify to audiences that it was the Palestinian Authority instigated Second Intifada which made permits necessary for residents of PA controlled areas. Neither were viewers told that there are no stops near Beit Surik or anywhere else along the line running from Jerusalem to Ben Gurion airport.

The film continues:

“Villagers fear they may lose access to some of their land.”

Muhammed Abdul Razik, Beit Surik resident:

“We don’t have enough information about the route of the train. It definitely passes under the lands of the village of Beit Surik but whether it is above the land or under the land, it is the same problem. For us the damage is the same. I am sure we will not have the freedom to work on our lands.”

Seeing as that tunnel – Tunnel 3 – was completed over four years ago, the claim that the route is not clear is an obvious red herring which the BBC chose nevertheless to include in its report. The BBC provides no evidence to support the specious claim that the existence of the tunnel will have any effect on access to farming land.

The film goes on to tell BBC audiences that:

“The Israeli Transport Ministry has not commented. The full route is not open yet. […] And next, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz wants to tunnel underneath Jerusalem’s historic, politically sensitive Old City. He wants to build “Donald Trump Station” near the Western Wall after the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem. More controversy is likely.”

While there are indeed plans to extend the train line from its current final stop in Jerusalem towards the city centre and the Old City, those plans – including the route – are still under Planning Committee discussion and so the BBC’s suggestion that construction will take place “underneath Jerusalem’s historic, politically sensitive Old City” is at best premature.

As we see just over half of the BBC’s anonymous report on this new train line is devoted to amplification of politicised messaging. Coincidentally or not, that messaging just happens to align with that put out by Saeb Erekat and the PLO when the train line was opened.

 

 

A BBC contributor’s ‘particular viewpoint’

As we regrettably frequently have cause to note on these pages, BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality include the following:

All too often, however, BBC audiences are not given the required insight into the “particular viewpoint” of an interviewee which would allow them to put his or her contribution into its appropriate context.

One such example was seen last December when a contributor to a BBC World Service radio item concerning what was at the time still a potential announcement by the US president concerning Jerusalem and the US embassy in Israel was introduced as follows:

“We’ve been getting opinions from Israel, from America: now for a Palestinian view of the implications. We’ve been speaking to Professor Saree Makdisi. He’s based in California. He’s the author of ‘Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation’. So, Professor Makdisi, how significant is this move?”

As noted here at the time, listeners were not informed that the US born professor of English literature is a proponent of a bi-national state – and the resulting elimination of the Jewish state – and a supporter of the BDS campaign

In the wake of the recent lethal attack on worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Makdisi had several comments to make.

The people Makdisi claims were killed “in Gaza” on the evening of October 28th were in fact approaching the border fence, in the dark, with a suspicious object

“Three Palestinians were killed Sunday during an IDF airstrike near Khan Yunis after they were identified placing a suspicious object, believed to be an explosive device, on the border fence.

The Palestinians were spotted by a Gaza division observation post while they were crawling in the dark towards the security fence with the suspicious object.”

Makdisi however equated that incident with the deadly attack on Jews in the Pittsburgh synagogue by disingenuously claiming that both cases come under the heading ‘racial violence’. He equated an anti-Semitic murderer with members of the armed forces tasked with protecting civilians from cross-border attacks which have been going on for seven months.

And that is the mindset behind the ‘expert academic opinion’ heard by BBC audiences around the world last December: the obviously highly relevant “particular viewpoint” which the BBC – despite its own editorial guidelines – made no effort whatsoever to clarify.

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BBC World Service radio adopts the PLO’s language

The October 19th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item relating to the previous day’s announcement by the US Secretary of State concerning the merging of the American embassy and consulate general in Jerusalem into a single diplomatic mission.

Programme presenter James Menendez introduced his interviewee (from 0:45:04 here) as follows: 

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

Menendez: “Until a few months ago America’s embassy in Israel was in Tel Aviv. Its diplomatic mission to the Palestinians was at the consulate general in Jerusalem. But in May – as you may remember – the embassy moved to Jerusalem; America recognising what Israel has always maintained: that Jerusalem is its capital. That was condemned by Palestinians as well as all the other members of the UN Security Council.”

Failing to clarify that no UN Security Council resolution was in fact passed on that topic, Menendez went on:

Menendez: “Well, now another change: the mission to the Palestinians is going to be subsumed into the new US embassy. It’ll be called the Palestinian Affairs Unit. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says it’s about achieving efficiencies. Palestinians say it’s just another move to downgrade them. Well let’s talk to Martin Indyk, himself a former US ambassador to Israel, now [at] the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Welcome to the programme. How would you characterise this move?”

Indyk: “Oh I don’t think there can be any doubt that it is a downgrading of US representation to the Palestinians that is consistent with the decision to establish the embassy in Jerusalem – the US embassy to Israel – in Jerusalem and recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And in doing so the president – President Trump – made no reference to Palestinian claims to Jerusalem and so I think this is just…just a further symbolic and management act that demonstrates that the last…the symbolic toe-hold for the Palestinians in terms of American policy – their toe-hold in Jerusalem – is now gone.”

Failing to explain that the US president’s December 2017 announcement specifically stated that “[t]he United States continues to take no position on any final status issues” and “[t]he 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”, Menendez then came up with the following bizarre statement-cum-question:

Menendez: “Eh…I mean in a place where symbols matter hugely, I mean is it also symbolic of this one-state solutionthe Greater Israel as the government there calls it – with everybody being under one roof?”

While members of certain parties included in the current Israeli coalition government have proposed annexation of various parts of Judea & Samaria, that is not official government policy. Menendez’s implication that the Israeli government promotes “the Greater Israel” is obviously inaccurate and misleading (especially given his reference to “this one-state solution” which of course has additional meanings) as well as irrelevant to the topic ostensibly under discussion. The likely source of that misleading phrase used by Menendez will be discussed in a moment but in the meantime, the interview continued.

Indyk: “Well I don’t think it forecloses even some Palestinian position in Jerusalem in final status talks as far as the US policy is concerned. Secretary Pompeo was quick to say that. But in practical terms what it signals is this much touted and little revealed Trump peace plan. What’s in it for the Palestinians is going to be slim pickings indeed, especially when it comes to Jerusalem.”

Menendez: “I suppose someone would say, you know, practically it’s not going to make a huge amount of difference given the lack of peace talks anyway at the moment.”

Indyk: “Yes, that is true but it will make a difference in terms of representation to the Palestinians. There’s a lot more than just talking about peace involved in dealings between the United States and the Palestinian Authority. And now there will no longer be even a consul general – not an ambassador but a consul general – to deal with the Palestinian Authority. That person is going to be a more junior person under the authority of the US ambassador to Israel and that’s something that the Palestinian Authority – and certainly its leader Abu Mazen – will have great difficulty relating to and so I think that, you know, with the cut off in all aid to the Palestinians from the United States…eh…the lowering of the political level of engagement – it just means that there’s an overall downgrading of the Palestinians in Trump administration policy.”

Refraining from pointing out to listeners that the US has not “cut off…all aid” to the PA, Menendez closed the interview there.

So where did James Menendez get that phrase “the Greater Israel”? A clue can be found in the promotion of an article on the same topic which appeared on the BBC News website on October 18th.

In the report itself – titled “US to merge Jerusalem consulate general with new embassy” – BBC audiences were told that:

“Palestinians condemned the move.

Senior official Saeb Erekat said the Trump administration was working with Israelis to “impose ‘Greater Israel’ rather than a two-state solution”.”

That quote was taken from a series of Tweets put out by the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department on October 18th and picked up by a BBC producer.

And so we see that a phrase attributed to the Israeli government by James Menendez in fact comes from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat.

This of course is by no means the first instance in which we have seen the BBC promoting talking points and narratives conceived by the PLO:

Reviewing BBC compliance with PLO media guidance

BBC’s Bateman amplifies PLO’s Balfour agitprop

Mapping changes in the terminology used by the BBC to describe Temple Mount

PLO recommended terminology continues to appear in BBC content

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

In this latest item BBC World Service audiences heard just one view of the story (which unsurprisingly happens to dovetail with that of the PLO) while the BBC presenter adopted and amplified misleading terminology promoted by the PLO for political purposes and in doing so, compromised the BBC’s objectivity.  

Related Articles:

BBC framing of Jerusalem embassy stories continues

Context lacking, inaccuracies let slide in BBC WS coverage of PLO mission closure

BBC News report on US closure of PLO mission fails to adequately inform

BBC News reporting on US aid cut to UNRWA – part two

 

 

 

 

BBC framing of Jerusalem embassy stories continues

On October 16th the BBC News website published a report titled “Australia considers following US on Jerusalem embassy” on its main homepage, its ‘World’ page and its ‘Australia’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

The Australian prime minister’s statements were presented in its opening lines as follows:

“Australia will consider recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says. […]

Mr Morrison said Australia remained committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Political opponents said Mr Morrison’s comments were a “deceitful” ploy for votes ahead of a crucial by-election.”

Readers were also told that:

“If acted upon, the move would follow a recent policy shift by the US that has drawn criticism internationally. […]

US President Donald Trump drew international criticism last year when he reversed decades of American foreign policy by recognising the ancient city as Israel’s capital. The US embassy was relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.” [emphasis added]

As has been the case in many previous BBC reports about the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, in this article the fact that the US Congress actually voted to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital over two decades ago was yet again concealed from audience view.

Readers were told that “[t]he prime minister said one future scenario could involve Australia recognising [emphasis added] a Palestinian Authority capital in East Jerusalem and Israeli capital in West Jerusalem”. The statement actually said:

“…the Government will carefully examine the arguments put forward by Australia’s former Ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, that we should consider recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, without prejudice to its final boundaries, while acknowledging East Jerusalem as the expected capital of a future Palestinian state.” [emphasis added]

The BBC report went on to amplify comment from the Palestinian Authority’s Riyad al-Maliki but failed to explain to readers why the Palestinian response to a possible outcome that the PLO allegedly seeks should be negative.

Readers were told of announcements:

“Two other countries – Guatemala and Paraguay – announced they would also make the switch, but Paraguay later reversed the decision after a change of government.”

They were not however informed that the embassy of Guatemala has been located in Jerusalem since May 2018.

The article ended with a section headed “Why is the status of Jerusalem so contentious?” in which the BBC’s standard framing of related topics was to be found. As usual, BBC audiences were led to believe that nothing of relevance happened before 1967 and they heard nothing of Jordan’s 19-year occupation of parts of the city.  

“Israel regards Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war – as the capital of a future state.”

A problematic video by Yolande Knell dating from December 2017 was however recycled in this latest report.

Readers found the BBC’s usual partisan framing of ‘international law’ and ‘settlements’ with no mention of the fact that some of the Jerusalem neighbourhoods it chooses to define as such were inhabited by Jews until the Jordanian occupation.

“Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Since late 2016 the BBC’s coverage of stories relating to the relocation of foreign embassies to Jerusalem has been characterised by very specific framing of such decisions as ‘controversial’ and the absence of key background information which would enhance audience understanding. As we see in this latest report, that unhelpful editorial policy continues.

Related Articles:

Mapping the BBC’s branding of declarations on Jerusalem as ‘controversial’

BBC omits key context in account of potential US embassy move

The BBC’s narrative on ‘East Jerusalem’ omits relevant context

Inaccuracy and omission in BBC backgrounder on Jerusalem