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.

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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

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

The June 26th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included a fairly long item relating to the Bahrain economic workshop which was in its second day. Before that, however, during a review of the day’s newspapers (from 09:53 here) listeners were told by presenter Mishal Husain that:

Husain [09:53]: “And the Times reports from the US sponsored…eh…conference aimed at Middle East peace that’s taking place in Bahrain, saying ‘the US has killed hopes of a Palestinian state as that conference opened’. This is because Jared Kushner has used an interview to mark the start of the conference by saying that…ehm…that ‘we all have to recognise that if there ever is a deal’ – he means a peace deal – ‘it’s not going to be along the lines of the Arab Peace Initiative’ and that was the initiative that envisaged an Israeli and a Palestinian state standing side by side.”

That Times article included more than just that bizarre claim presented in its opening paragraphs but that was what Husain chose to highlight. The interview to which she referred was with Al Jazeera and the relevant part is from 20:02 in the video here.

Husain’s presentation obviously suggests to listeners that the first time the idea of a two-state solution came up was in the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. That of course is not the case – the concept had been around since the Peel Commission report of 1937 and has since been part of numerous initiatives, including at the Madrid Conference in 1991. What Husain did not tell Radio 4 listeners is that the Palestinians have a long record of rejection of any solution involving two states for two peoples and that the Arab Peace Initiative is not accepted by Hamas or Hizballah.

Neither did Husain bother to clarify that that initiative includes more that just “an Israeli and a Palestinian state standing side by side”. It demands Israeli withdrawal from areas which are not included in any plan for a Palestinian state (including the Golan Heights) and it is, from the Israeli point of view, extremely problematic on the issue of Palestinian refugees due to its not only demanding ‘right of return’ to Israel but also rejecting the resettlement (“patriation“) of Palestinian refugees in Arab countries.

It is therefore plausible that when Mr Kushner told the Al Jazeera interviewer that any future agreement “will be somewhere between the Arab peace initiative and between the Israeli position” he had those points in mind. Mishal Husain however unquestioningly embraced the viewpoint of the Times reporter and promoted the notion to listeners that the United States had “killed hopes of a Palestinian state”.

That selective and politicised framing is important because, as we shall see in part two of this post, Husain continued to promote it throughout the later item concerning the Bahrain conference.

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

The June 26th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item described as follows in its synopsis:

“Also in the programme: Jared Kushner’s conference to bring “Peace to Prosperity” to Palestinians takes place in Bahrain…without the Palestinians.” 

Presenter Paul Henley introduced the item (from 30:04 here) thus:

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

Henley: “’President Trump and America have not given up on you’ Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner told Palestinians. But they weren’t there to hear him at a conference in Bahrain focusing on the economic aspects of the Middle East peace plan Mr Kushner has been working on. He wants fifty billion dollars-worth of investment to be put into the Palestinian economy. Neither Israel nor the Palestinian authorities are attending the event. It’s not discussing a political resolution.”

In fact the plan speaks of $50 billion of investment to be divided between the Palestinian economy and three neighbouring Arab countries over ten years. Henley went on:

Henley: “Well, we’ll be looking at the plan in a moment. First, our Jerusalem correspondent Yolande Knell has been looking at how the Palestinian economy is doing.”

Listeners then heard the same report by Knell that had been aired the previous day on ‘Newshour’ and on BBC Radio 4. Although the final interviewee in that report is Issam the fruit seller, Henley continued:

Henley: “Palestinian builder Rasmi ending that report by Yolande Knell. So how is the conference going given that the people who are being discussed – the Palestinians – are boycotting it? The prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mohammad Shtayyeh, has said ‘what will be presented at the conference has nothing to do with reality’. ‘It’s nothing to do with occupation’, he said, ‘the best part of it will be the coffee break’.”

Following that uncritical promotion of PA talking points, Henley introduced an interviewee – a journalist covering the conference for a newspaper considered close to the Saudi Arabian regime.  

Henley: “Faisal Abbas is editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based Arab News and he joins me now from the conference, which is happening at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manama which is the capital of Bahrain. […] Is it strange that this conference is being attended by Gulf billionaires, by Israeli businessmen and the likes of Tony Blair and Christine Lagarde, all discussing a project that the Palestinians have already rejected?”

Once communication problems had been resolved, Henley repeated his question, yet again failing to inform listeners that a number of Palestinian businessmen did attend the economic workshop.

Henley: “Tell me if you think it’s strange that this conference is discussing something Palestinians have already rejected in their absence.”

Abbas: “Ahh…so it is absolutely strange. I, like all the Arabs participating here, we are here because we do care about the Palestinian cause and, you know, in our hearts, in our actions we will do anything to support the Palestinians. So I respect the decision of the Palestinian leadership but I perhaps don’t think…I don’t agree that it was the best course of action. I think it would have been much better for somebody to be here to fight the cause and explain the point of view as to why this is rejected and make fresh demands if needed.”

Henley next promoted more PA/PLO messaging.

Henley: “What’s being discussed are economic solutions. Some people have said – Palestinians have said – it amounts to bribes for them to give up their demands for a political solution: a two-state solution.”

Abbas: “Ah, look, if that is the case…this is what I was saying, you know, participating and listening does not equate to an approval. If that is indeed the case then neither them or any of the Arabs would support such an equation. You know, this is, you know, just the advantage of being here. You have to look at the plan and from an economic point of view it makes a lot of sense. It does bring hope and there is nobody that ever spoke about it that said that this is a conditional for the Palestinians agreeing to terms that they might not agree. Everybody has been saying that this only be subject to approval of both sides and subject to a reception of the political side of the peace plan which will be revealed in a few months’ time.”

Henley’s next question also had nothing to do with the US plan presented at the workshop beyond mentioning one of the participants.

Henley: “Shlomi Fogel, who’s an Israeli shipping magnate attending this conference, says he thinks the Arab world is sick and tired of the Palestinians and their cause and just wants the conflict out of the way. What do you think?”

Abbas: “Ahm, I don’t think that’s true. We sympathetic with our Palestinian brothers. We stand by them. We think it’s unjust, it’s unfair what they’ve had to go through for decades. We’re…look we’ve tried various solutions – sometimes military, sometimes non-military. Nothing has worked so far and one of the definitions of insanity is trying something over and over again and expect a different result. You have a serious…”

Henley did not even allow his interviewee to complete his sentence before closing the item.

Henley [interrupts] “Thank you very much. I’ve got to stop it there, I’m afraid.”

In the introduction to this item listeners were told that it would be “looking at the plan” presented at the Bahrain economic workshop. In fact, audiences heard nothing at all about what that plan includes and how it might advance the economic well being of the Palestinian people.

Instead BBC World Service radio listeners once again heard a superficial report which did little more than amplify Palestinian Authority talking points and contributed nothing to proper audience understanding of the story.

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BBC’s Middle East editor Tweets about ‘attitudes’

On June 30th the Jerusalem Post published an article which included statements issued by the Palestinian Authority concerning the opening of an archaeological site taking place on the same day.

“The PA Foreign Ministry strongly condemned plans by US Ambassador David Friedman and US special envoy Jason Greenblatt to attend the inaugural ceremony of the discovery of “Pilgrim’s Road” in Jerusalem’s Old City. The expected presence of the American officials at the event will be the first time the US will recognize Israeli sovereignty within areas of the Old City Basin.

The PA ministry said their participation underscores the US administration’s support for the “Judaization” of Jerusalem.

“This is a new image of American aggression,” the ministry said. “The American presence [in the ceremony] and celebrating Judaization activities in occupied east Jerusalem are an act of hostility against the Palestinians.”

Greenblatt responded to the claims on Twitter, saying that the PA should recognize history and archaeology and “stop pretending it isn’t true.””

Shortly after Mr Greenblatt had sent that Tweet the BBC’s Middle East editor put out one of his own.

The BBC has of course been promoting the PA approved notion that “The Judaisation of Arab East Jerusalem proceeds apace” for over two decades and when Jeremy Bowen visited the City of David in 2014 he came up with the historically challenged idea that Palestinians should appear in a film about Jerusalem as it was three thousand years ago.

“In this 15-minute film for visitors to the City of David archaeological site, Palestinians don’t get a mention.”

The BBC’s record “says a lot about the attitudes” at the ‘impartial’ BBC – as does this latest Tweet from its Middle East editor. 

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BBC R4 Bahrain conference coverage continues – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the first half of an item aired in the June 25th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ – presented by Ritula Shah – concerning the economic workshop in Bahrain which had commenced that morning.  

Following a report from Yolande Knell which included a statement from the Palestinian Authority prime minister, Shah went on (from 24:37 here) to introduce an interviewee. That interview is notable because for the first time in the six days that the BBC had been covering the story (see ‘related articles’ below), audiences heard an alternative view of the topic.

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

Shah began by quoting unnamed ‘critics’.

Shah: “Well critics of the plan say it’s little more than a remix of early attempts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and they claim the document includes photos of Palestinians involved in aid programmes that have been cut by the Trump administration. Jon Lerner is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and served as a deputy to the UN ambassador Nikki Haley [US ambassador to the UN – Ed.]. I put it to him that people have criticised the absence of any discussion of political issues such as Israeli settlement building or prospects for Palestinian statehood. So why didn’t he see that as a problem?

Lerner: “It’s not an obstacle because that portion of it is still to come. This is a phased plan where the initial phase is to discuss the economic aspects of it and the political aspects that they’re referring to will be outlined at a later date. The administration felt that outlining the rewards or the benefits of peace might be helpful in concentrating everybody’s minds.”

Once more Shah took to paraphrasing the supposed arguments of unidentified commentators.

Shah: “But there are those who would argue that some indication of the political decision-making of the Trump administration might already have been indicated by the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem, which sends a very clear signal to the Palestinians, some might argue. So there have been hints of the direction of travel which perhaps are not fair, perhaps are one-sided, but yet Palestinians are left with the view that perhaps their views are being under-represented.”

Lerner: “Yes, well that’s where the Trump administration has parted with previous efforts and I think has done so quite intelligently. They’ve taken certain questions like the question of whether Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel – a question that, you know, any serious person already knows the answer to – and they’ve said we’re going to exercise our judgement on that and recognise the reality that that is not a subject of future negotiations. There is no conceivable peace plan under which Jerusalem would cease to be the capital of Israel and so by merely recognising that reality, that does not pre-judge any of the more difficult questions…”

Interrupting her guest, yet again Shah used the ‘many people’ tactic without clarifying their identities.

Shah [interrupts]: “But that…many people would say that if you think back to the peace talks of the 1990s and the question of Jerusalem was left to be decided later because for many Palestinians that is a very important part of what they see as their future peace settlement and if you…”

Lerner: “Yes and we remember that same plan was unsuccessful and unagreed to. We should not look to the failures of the past as our guide for the future.”

Shah: “Do you think it might have built confidence with the Palestinian leadership, who are clearly very sceptical, have made no secret of their views of the Trump administration – do you think it would have helped to build confidence if perhaps there had been a mention of illegal settlements and so on: that those issues which are clearly important issues for the Palestinians – absolutely priority issues – had actually been front and centre of this plan?”

Lerner: “No I don’t. In fact the issue of settlements has been largely a distraction for a long time. It is certainly a topic that will be negotiated…”

An audibly irritated Shah once again interrupted her interviewee.

Shah [interrupts]: “Well is it a distraction if you…but is it a distraction if the ultimate goal is a two-state solution?”

Lerner: “The ultimate goal is peace. Whether it’s two states or one state or any number, any other formulation is to be determined. But by making the issue of settlements the dominant one in the discussion of the challenges facing the Middle East and facing the Palestinians, you actually take attention away from the more critical issues.”

Shah: “So just finally; we have yet to see this political road map or political plan that you talk about but should Palestinians in a sense still keep their hopes up that there could be a two-state solution under the Trump administration’s proposals?”

Lerner: “Absolutely. They should engage in it. They should continue to keep their hopes up because the goal of the Trump administration’s plans is to settle all of the disputes, have a peace agreement and improve the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis.”

Remarkably, Shah’s line of questioning throughout this whole interview mirrored the Palestinian Authority and PLO talking points complaining that the economic section of the plan does not include the political issues which – as had already been clarified – will be in its second part. Predictably, the only ‘political issue’ promoted twice by Shah was “illegal settlements” but she had nothing to say on relevant issues such as the Hamas-Fatah split or the fact that Hamas is not interested in a two-state solution or any other type of resolution of the conflict.

So while Radio 4 listeners did finally get to hear a different view of the Bahrain economic workshop in this interview, Shah nevertheless ensured that it avoided subjects far more relevant to the issue of the chances of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than ‘settlements’.

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More monochrome BBC WS radio reporting on the Bahrain workshop

BBC R4 Bahrain conference coverage continues – part one

BBC R4 Bahrain conference coverage continues – part one

The June 25th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ – presented by Ritula Shah – included an item (from 18:39 here) concerning the economic workshop in Bahrain which commenced that day.  

Shah began by claiming that: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Shah: “President Trump calls it ‘the deal of the century’. The official title is ‘Peace to Prosperity – the economic plan: a new vision for the Palestinian people’. It’s the basis of a discussion with Arab investors that’s underway in Bahrain. The White House wants donor countries to contribute around $50 billion for a newly created development fund. Just over half the money would go to projects in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip – areas the Palestinians want for an independent state – and the rest would go to Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who’s leading the US delegation, admitted that the plan doesn’t address the need for a political settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But, he said, agreeing on an economic pathway was a necessary precondition for peace. He also didn’t seem to realise that it was his father-in-law who talked about ‘the deal of the century’.”

Listeners then heard a recording of Mr Kushner speaking at the conference.

Kushner: “Some people have mockingly called this effort ‘the deal of the century’ but at its core it is not just about making a deal. In fact this effort is better referred to as the opportunity of the century, if leadership has the courage to pursue it. This is about creating an opportunity for the Palestinian people. This is about creating opportunity for the people throughout the Middle East.”

Shah’s claim that Trump “calls it ‘the deal of the century’” and her snide dig that Kushner “didn’t seem to realise” that is unsupported. AFP journalist Joe Dyke looked into that claim, which has also been promoted in previous BBC content.

“It has become common in recent months for media reports to say that US President Donald Trump calls his proposed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan the “deal of the century,” a phrase seen as indicative of Trump’s real estate style of diplomacy.

Major international media, including AFP, have said the name was given by the president, but in fact it appears there is no record of him using it in public.

It seems the first major usage of the phrase originates from a 2017 meeting between Trump and Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Since then it has been used widely in the Arab world and by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, particularly by those opposed to the deal. […]

On April 3, 2017, Trump met President Sissi. In Arabic-language remarks, the Egyptian leader told Trump he was fully supportive of Trump’s attempts to find a “solution to the issue of the century with the deal of the century.” […]

After the meeting the term deal of the century began to be discussed in Arabic media and online.”

In other words, not only does the BBC appear to have failed to fact check Shah’s claim that the phrase ‘the deal of the century’ was coined by Mr Trump, it has adopted the language used by Palestinian officials who opposed the US initiative before it was even made public.

Ritula Shah went on:

Shah: “Well Palestinian leaders have rejected the plan and won’t be in Bahrain. Israeli officials haven’t been invited because of the Palestinians’ absence.  Several Arab countries agreed to attend but, out of solidarity with the Palestinians, have sent more junior ministers.”

While that may be the case as far as Egypt and Morocco are concerned, Shah’s portrayal obviously does not give listeners an accurate portrayal of the event because it fails to clarify that the finance ministers of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain participated in the workshop along with foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the head of the IMF, the president of the World Bank and ten Palestinian businessmen.

Shah: “But the White House says they’re interested instead in appealing to ordinary Palestinians keen to improve their parlous economic prospects. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been speaking to some of them.”

Listeners then heard the same report from Knell that was aired on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on the same day – a report that was similar to both a televised report billed Palestinian poverty which she produced for BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’ on June 20th and an article she wrote which was published on the BBC News website on June 25th under the headline “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ falls flat in West Bank”.

The remainder of the item will be discussed in part two of this post.

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More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part one

More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part two

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

BBC radio ‘impartial’ on payments to terrorists

Another PA official gets unchallenging BBC radio air-time

More monochrome BBC WS radio reporting on the Bahrain workshop

 

 

 

 

 

More monochrome BBC WS radio reporting on the Bahrain workshop

The top story in the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on June 25th was described as follows by presenter Tim Franks in his introduction to the programme: {emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Franks: “It’s eluded the Israelis, the Palestinians and countless US administrations but now this White House says it has a brand new detailed plan for Middle East peace. Today we got part one: the economic vision for the Palestinians. It’s our top story.”

The item itself (from 00:57 here) was presented thus:

Franks: “We’re used to big, bold talk from President Trump but on one thing we can probably all agree: that were his administration to be able to conjur a full peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, it would indeed be – as Mr Trump put it – the ultimate deal. Today we got the long-awaited first part of the plan, drawn up under the aegis of one of his closest – if not the closest advisor – his son-in-law Jared Kushner. At what’s been billed as an economic workshop in Bahrain, he’s laid out his proposals for fifty billion dollars’ worth of investment in the Palestinian territories and neighbouring Arab countries. Mr Kushner appealed for open minds and for patience.”

After listeners had heard two segments of recordings of Kushner speaking at the conference, Franks went on:

Franks: “The White House says this is about trying a new approach to improve the Palestinians’ prospects after many years of political stasis if not outright failure. Palestinian leaders though are boycotting the event, furious about what they say is the Trump administration’s bias against them. White House officials say they’re unmoved by that show of intransigence. They’re interested instead in appealing to ordinary Palestinians keen to improve their parlous economic prospects. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been speaking to some of those Palestinians.”

Listeners then heard a report from Yolande Knell which was similar to both a televised report billed Palestinian poverty which she produced for BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’ on June 20th and an article she wrote which was published on the BBC News website on June 25th under the headline “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ falls flat in West Bank”.

Knell: “It’s not long after four o’clock in the morning. It’s still pitch-black but the street here is teeming with people. There’s a small, informal market place that’s popped up overnight and some are stopping to buy some breakfast, some falafel sandwiches, a cup of coffee. These are Palestinian workers heading into the Israeli checkpoint.”

Listeners heard a voiceover translation of a man saying:

“The economic situation isn’t good. That’s why we have to go to Israel to work because there are no job opportunities.”

Knell: “Rasmi, from Hebron, has nine people depending on him and earns three times more in Israel as a builder than he could at home. With the West Bank economy in dire straits, it relies heavily on the tens of thousands of labourers like him with Israeli work permits. But here at the Taybeh Brewery near Ramallah they say business could be fizzing as much as the bottles of beer on their production line if it wasn’t for the tough political situation.”

Woman: “Doing business in this country is unlike anywhere else in the world. We are a Palestinian company under occupation and we don’t have our own borders, we don’t have control over the water, electricity. Anything that comes in and out of the country is through Israel.”

The Taybeh Brewery is situated in Taybeh which is in Area B and has been under Palestinian Authority civil control and Israeli security control since the year the brewery was founded, 1995. Just as the representatives of the Palestinians agreed to the zoning into Areas A, B and C, they also agreed to arrangements concerning water and electricity. The Palestinians have their own Water Authority and get some of their electricity from the Israel Electric Corporation – to which the Palestinian Authority currently owes hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid debt.

Knell: “Instead of the White House promising aid or outside investment, Mdees Khoury says a lot could be achieved by finding ways to ease Israeli restrictions – measures Israel says are for its own protection. For her family’s firm, these can mean costly delays of imports and in distribution to local and foreign markets, which is via Israeli checkpoints and ports.”

Knell of course did not bother to mention the Palestinian terrorism which made checkpoints necessary.

Khoury: “Palestinians are very smart people. They’re very determined, they’re very hard-working and they’re very highly educated and if they just get the chance to be left alone they could thrive and succeed and this country would be amazing.”

Knell: “But in Gaza, where the economy’s stagnated in the past decade, there’s less optimism. Israel and Egypt tightened border controls, citing security concerns, after Hamas – which is widely seen as a terrorist group – took over. Hamdi has no job and lives with his six children in one room. They struggle to get by on Qatari donations of $100 a month. ‘That money isn’t enough’ he says, ‘it just goes to pay our debts’.”

Once again Knell sidestepped the crucial issue of the terrorism which brought about the situation she describes. Listeners next heard shouts of ‘go home’ but Knell did not bother to inform them that the “protests” she went on to describe were organised by the PA’s ruling Fatah faction.

Knell: “Already there’ve been Palestinian protests against the Trump administration’s economic plan. While Israel says it’s keeping an open mind, it’s been rejected outright by Palestinian leaders. The prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, says a political solution is needed.”

Shtayyeh: “This workshop is simply a political laundry for settlements and the legitimisation of occupation. The Palestinian leadership is not part of it and we think that the outcome is going to be fruitless and it is simply nonsense.”

Knell: “Back at the turnstile of the Bethlehem checkpoint, Rasmi the builder is returning home, tired at the end of a 16-hour day. He stops to buy grapes from Issam, a farmer turned fruit seller who sets up a stall here each afternoon. He tells me that there’s no work in his village.”

Issam: “Our officials can’t open new buildings or factories. They don’t have the resources.”

That of course would have been the ideal opportunity for Yolande Knell to point out that some 7% of the Palestinian Authority’s annual budget – around $330 million a year according to a BBC report from a year ago and more according to other sources – is spent on payments to terrorists and their families. Knell however refrained from providing listeners with that relevant information.

Knell: “Can President Trump fix the Palestinian economy?”

Issam: “No. From what we saw when he became the president, he has done nothing to help the Palestinian economy unfortunately.”

Knell: “With financial woes at the heart of so much suffering here, it’s easy to see why White House aides view the economy as a way to exert influence. But so far, few Palestinians are buying their argument that the ‘deal of the century’ could be their opportunity of the century.”

The rest of that nearly twelve minute-long item was given over to a conversation between Tim Franks and David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank who attended the workshop in Bahrain.  During that conversation Mr Makovsky observed that “solving the whole conflict” is “easier said than done”, noting – as a former Obama administration official – that:

“We had a president who was very engaged on the Palestinian issue and we couldn’t get even an answer from the Palestinian Authority…”

Tim Franks chose not to follow up on that statement and once again BBC audiences heard a long yet monochrome report on the Bahrain economic workshop which avoided the key issue of the Hamas-Fatah split and sidestepped the topic of Palestinian terrorism.  

Another PA official gets unchallenging BBC radio air-time

A week after having briefed BBC journalists and four days after his colleague participated in two sympathetic BBC radio interviews, the PA representative in London, Husam Zomlot, was given another opportunity by the BBC to promote PLO taking points ahead of the Bahrain economic workshop.

The June 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included a five and a half minute item (from 34:30 here) introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “In Bahrain tomorrow the US government’s Middle East point man Jared Kushner will begin putting into practice his long-trailed plan to bring peace. It’s taken two years to construct but already the foundations of what Mr Kushner’s father-in-law President Trump hopes will be ‘the deal of the century’ look pretty shaky. The decision to put the political questions on pause and instead concentrate on raising billions of dollars for the Palestinian economy has been dismissed by the Palestinian leadership as a bribe. That leadership won’t be in Bahrain and it refuses to engage with an American administration it no longer views as an honest broker after a series of diplomatic decisions, such as moving its embassy to Jerusalem, which have delighted the Israelis. Well this was the pre-Bahrain protest on the streets of the West Bank town of Ramallah today. [recording of shouting] ‘Trump go home’ is what they shout. Well I’ve been speaking about Jared Kushner’s plan to the head of the Palestinian mission to the UK, Husam Zomlot.”

Coomarasamy did not bother to inform his listeners that those ‘protests’ – which in some locations included violent rioting – were organised by the PA’s ruling Fatah faction. Listeners first discovered that Mr Zomlot does not understand the meaning of the term money-laundering

Zomlot: “A plan that does not deal with the real issues is really not a plan. Call it whitewashing, money laundering [sic], whatever you want to call it but it’s not a plan. It has nothing to do with peace. Definitely it has nothing to do with us, the Palestinians.” [laughs]

Coomarasamy: “Well the other part of it is prosperity – peace to prosperity is the slogan – and there’s a lot of money – $50 billion potentially – that the Americans would like to see distributed to the Palestinian people and to your neighbours.”

Zomlot: “This is the game of deceit. If you really want to unleash the Palestinian economy, given that we have the best human capital there is – you know we have one of the highest PhD per capita graduates worldwide. We have a very young society. We have a very rich natural resourced country. We have shores on the Mediterranean, on the Dead Sea. All what we need is simply freedom, sovereignty – economic sovereignty – and I assure you we Palestinians are absolutely capable to build our very prosperous economy. It’s condescending approach by Kushner telling us and the world that Palestinians are not ready to govern themselves. He knows what’s our interest and therefore he decides it and then he releases a plan – Kushner and his team – that does not mention the word occupation or freedom or statehood or self-determination. It seems these people all what they are thinking about is cash.”

Refraining from raising the relevant topic of the Palestinian Authority’s role in creating its current economic crisis and specifically the issue of its payment of cash rewards for terrorism, Coomarasamy went on:

Coomarasamy: “They say that there is a second stage to this; that there will be a political part of the plan but this is…the first part is to get the cash injection you do need, after all, don’t you?”

Zomlot: “Of course cash is always needed. Of course economic support is always needed but it’s a matter of priority. Cash and economic support has been happening for over 25 years by the international community but it was for a certain purpose. It was for a certain direction which is establishing a Palestinian sovereign state. The UK has spent hundreds of millions of dollars, the US, Europe and what have you and we agreed to that economic assistance. But Kushner is thinking like a real estate man, not like a statesman and he thinks that Israel takes the property and we take the cash. Now Palestine is not for sale, number one. Number two: what cash? The fifty billion is not coming to the Palestinians. Around half of it will be coming to the Palestinians over a period of ten years and half of the half of it is going to be loans that will be incurring a lot of interest. We will be heavily indebted and if you do the math then we will end up with one billion every year from the international community, which we already get – but for a programme that goes towards the two-state solution on the 1967 borders according to international resolution.”

Coomarasamy failed to clarify to listeners that there is no such thing as “1967 borders” and that Zomlot’s partisan interpretation of the two-state solution does not stand up to scrutiny. Neither did he bother to ask his interviewee why the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected offers based on the principle of the two-state solution throughout the 25 years that they have been receiving the foreign aid Zomlot claims was for that purpose.

Coomarasamy: “Isn’t this though at the moment the only game in town? Don’t you need to be there at the table making your argument?”

Zomlot: “Even if it’s the only game in town, when you are certain that such a game is going to be leading to the opposite direction of your national camp, of your hundred years-old movement towards your rights, then you don’t dance on this tune; you don’t engage in this.”

Coomarasamy: “So what’s the alternative?”

Zomlot: “We have many alternatives and that’s why our president went to the Security Council last year in February and said here is the Palestinian peace plan. We want to see an international peace conference. He said name me one conflict that was not resolved by international mediation and international will.”

Coomarasamy: “If you feel that this current administration in Washington is one that simply does not have your interests at heart, it’s going in a completely opposite direction to Palestinian interests, what do you do? You cannot side-step it, can you? You have to engage in some way.”

Zomlot: “We met Mr Trump himself four times. We met his team, and I was included, more than 32 times. We engaged at full at the most senior level. We have been genuine, transparent, constructive, positive and hopeful. What we learned in every turn that this is a deceitful team; that they have one plan and one plan only which is the endorsement and the legitimisation of Israel’s colonial expansion and the delegitimisation of the Palestinian national project and international legitimacy. Why would they close the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington at the height of our engagement? Because they don’t see the Palestinians as a people. Why would they close the consulate general – the United States of America consulate general that was established in 1844? Because they don’t see us as a nation and they want us to be only part of Israel, part of the Israeli internal discussion. So now we are only a section in the American embassy to Israel. It’s clear what’s their intention. We cannot be just engaging for the sake of engaging.”

Coomarasamy made no effort to question Zomlot’s falsehood concerning “colonial expansion” and neither did he clarify that the PLO mission in Washington was closed because the Palestinian Authority instigated moves that contravene US legislation. Likewise, Zomlot’s inaccurate framing of the reasons behind the merger of the US consulate with the US embassy in Jerusalem went unchallenged by Coomarasamy.

And so, as we see, yet another Palestinian official was given unchallenging air-time on BBC radio in order to promote his talking points while yet another BBC interviewer carefully avoided any mention of relevant but inconvenient topics such as Palestinian terrorism, Palestinian Authority rewards for terrorism, Palestinian rejection of previous peace proposals, the Hamas-Fatah split and the Hamas ideology which renders Zomlot’s claims regarding a Palestinian “national camp” commitment to the two-state solution meaningless.

Related Articles:

BBC journalists get a ‘briefing’ from a past interviewee

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

More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part one

More PLO propaganda and polemic on BBC WS radio – part two

 

 

BBC radio ‘impartial’ on payments to terrorists

BBC framing of the upcoming economic workshop in Bahrain continued on June 20th with an item by Yolande Knell aired on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ which was introduced (from 37:29 here) by presenter James Coomarasamy as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “Next week in Bahrain the first piece of the Trump administration’s much vaunted Middle East ‘deal of the century’ is due to fall into place at a workshop on the Palestinian economy. But the Palestinian Authority, which has cut ties with the White House, is staying away despite being on the verge of financial collapse. The Israelis have been withholding tax revenues which the PA uses to pay prisoners and families of Palestinians who’ve been killed – payments which Israel regards as encouraging terrorism. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell sent this report.”

The Palestinian Authority of course does not pay any old prison inmate – only those convicted on counts of terrorism against Israelis. Neither does the PA pay every family of a Palestinian who has been killed – only those killed due to their having carried out an attack against Israelis. That information is obviously crucial if audiences are to be able to properly understand why “Israel regards” those payments as “encouraging terrorism”.

Nevertheless, when a slightly different version of Knell’s report was aired on the  BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on June 21st (from 18:53 here), presenter Julian Marshall employed similarly vague language.

Marshall: “Many Arab states now plan to join next week’s US sponsored workshop on the Palestinian economy in Bahrain although the Palestinian Authority, which has cut off ties with the White House, refuses to attend. Meanwhile, the PA itself is on the verge of financial collapse after Israel decided to withhold tax revenues equivalent to the sum the PA pays as salaries to Palestinian prisoners and the families of killed Palestinians. Israel says the payments encourage terrorism. The PA says they support Palestinian nationalist heroes. It now refuses to accept any of its money transfers and has had to cut the wages of tens of thousands of public workers including doctors and teachers as Yolande Knell reports.”

Knell’s report began with an unclear reference to the Sbarro terror attack in August 2001.

Knell: “18 years ago ambulances rushed to the bloody scene of a Hamas suicide bombing. Fifteen people were killed and 130 injured at a pizza restaurant in Jerusalem. The militants who planned it were later jailed by Israel but over the years they’ve been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in Palestinian prisoner salaries.”

Knell did not mention that the planner of the attack was released from prison in 2011. Listeners then heard a man say:

“They are treated as heroes in every sense of the word.”

Knell: “Arnold Roth, who lost his 15-year-old daughter Malki in the attack, says those wages promote terrorism.”

A. Roth: “The longer you serve in this satanic Palestinian Authority payments scheme – incentive scheme – the more money you make per month. What really is galling from the perspective of people like us, who will never see our daughter again, is that there’s no sense whatever that they’ve done something wrong.”

Listeners then heard music.

Knell: “This song, written by Malki, was recorded by her friends in her memory after her death. Her parents have long called for action against those behind the bombing. Frimet Roth welcomed a recent decision by Israel’s government to cut $140 million a year from the taxes they collect on behalf of the Palestinian Authority – a sum equivalent to the payments made to prisoners and relatives of Palestinians who’ve been killed.”

As we see, Knell also did not bother to adequately clarify to listeners that the financial rewards are given only to those involved in terrorism against Israelis.

F. Roth: “I think that the payments made are very crucial and they signal that there is no will for peace on the other side right now. Hopefully there will be changes.”

Knell: “But the latest change has been a crisis in the Palestinian market. PA leaders refused their incomplete tax transfers from Israel and that’s left them with a huge budget shortfall. Prisoner wages haven’t been touched but salaries have been cut for tens of thousands of Palestinian civil servants, including Charly Mansour, a hospital technician.”

Mansour: “It’s a problem for us because our salary’s not so high. When they cut it to half you cannot stay so long for that. And I have 3 children who have many activities to pay for and the loan to the bank, all this stuff.”

Knell: “A rally for prisoners shows how they’re held in high esteem by Palestinians. Along with those who’ve been killed by Israeli security forces, they’re considered to be heroes of the nationalist struggle. Criticism is taboo. There are over five thousand Palestinians held in Israel for security offences, some for murders, others for political activities.”

Knell did not clarify what she means by “political activities” – an omission which is particularly significant given that in the past she has portrayed Palestinian detainees as “political prisoners” to BBC audiences. Knell went on to interview the family of a convicted terrorist without providing enough details of the incident for it to be identified.

Knell: “Baby Mahmoud is named after his grandfather who’s serving a life sentence for killing an Israeli man. His father, Ali Rudaida [phonetic] tells me he was raised on his father’s prisoner wages. Over time they’ve gone up to $1,300 a month.”

Rudaida: “Actually, when we…when my father get to prison his salary was the only funds for the family that covers all our needs.”

Knell: “The family watches a video which shows Mahmoud Rudaida when he was arrested by Israeli soldiers after a shooting in the West Bank desert in 2002. It was the time of the second Palestinian uprising and his wife Basma says he was fighting for Palestinian rights.”

Voiceover: “From outside looking at us they’ll ask why did you do that? Why are you a terrorist? Why don’t they come and see the situation? We’re not allowed any freedom of movement. We’re all in a prison.”

The report ended abruptly there with Knell making no effort to inform BBC audiences that the claim that Palestinians do not have “any freedom of movement” is false and until the Palestinians launched the terror war known as the Second Intifada, there were no restrictions on their freedom of movement.

The version of the report aired on ‘Newshour’ omitted that last part and instead listeners heard Knell say:

Knell: “The issue of the Palestinian prisoners has long divided Israel and the Palestinians. At a time of deep impasse in the peace process it’s back in focus and for now, though the Palestinian Authority is in a dire financial state, there’s no end in sight to this stand-off.”

As long-time readers will be aware, it took the BBC years to even mention the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to terrorists and their families and although slightly more coverage of that subject has been seen in the past year, it is still under-reported.

Now, as the corporation builds its framing ahead of the Bahrain economic conference, the topic of the Palestinian Authority’s finances is obviously relevant and – as one of the factors contributing to the financial crisis – so is the issue of the PA cash rewards to terrorists who have murdered or tried to murder Israelis. Unsurprisingly, Yolande Knell found it appropriate to portray that topic ‘impartially’.

Related Articles:

BBC coverage of prisoner release amplifies narrative of ‘political prisoners’

BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

BBC News does some catch-up reporting on PA’s terror salaries

PA’s self-inflicted financial crisis continues to be ignored by BBC